Friday , May , 04 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Boozer helps Utah force Game 7

Salt Lake City, UT (Sports Network) – Carlos Boozer scored 22 points and
pulled down nine rebounds, as the Utah Jazz beat Houston, 94-82, forcing a
deciding Game 7 in their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Mehmet Okur tallied 19 points and nine boards, and Andrei Kirilenko came up
big with 14 points and five blocked shots for the Jazz, who have recorded all
three of their wins at home in this series. However, they will have to win on
Saturday in Houston if they are to advance out of the opening round for the
first time since 2000.

Deron Williams had 15 points and eight assists, and Okur nailed 4-of-7 shots
from three-point range for Utah, which is in the playoffs for the first time
since 2003, but has lost three consecutive times in the conference
quarterfinals.

“I was really pleased with the effort our guys put in to try and win the
game,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “They had their backs to the wall. I
thought they did a fine job.”

Tracy McGrady ended with 26 points and 10 assists, but struggled by shooting
1-for-8 from the field in the second half for the Rockets, who also haven’t
been past the first round in a long time. They’ve lost four straight times in
the opening round, previously advancing in 1997, when Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles
Barkley and Clyde Drexler were on the team.

Yao Ming contributed 25 points, but had eight of Houston’s 19 turnovers. Rafer
Alston scored 13 in a losing cause.

“Our defense let us down,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “Our turnovers
continue to plague us.”

Shane Battier’s three-pointer had the Rockets within 75-74 with 8:15
remaining, and Houston had its opportunities to go in front. After a Battier
steal, Juwan Howard missed a layup. McGrady then missed a three and then
turned the ball over twice. The last one, a steal by Kirilenko, lead to a
Boozer layup with 6:07 left.

“I think we were rushing too much,” McGrady said. “When you’re down the whole
game and you put yourself in that position, the most important thing to do is
take one possession at a time, make sure you execute. I think we were so
anxious to take the lead and go from there. It didn’t work our way.”

Two free throws by McGrady had Houston within 77-76, but Kirilenko came up
with two straight baskets, the second following an offensive foul from Yao.

“It’s amazing how hard work can take care of a lot of problems,” Sloan said
about Kirilenko. “I was so happy for him. We need that for our team to have a
chance to beat this team.”

Yao’s dunk made it 81-78 with 3:38 remaining, but Boozer nailed a pair of free
throws, and after McGrady and Yao missed shots, Okur hit the dagger, a three
to make it 88-78 with 2:08 left.

Now the focus shifts to Game 7, where the Jazz haven’t been involved in such a
game since falling to Seattle in the 1996 West finals. Houston lost to Dallas
in a Game 7 two years ago.

“It really is a true win or go home for both teams,” Boozer said. “They’re
fortunate to have it on their home court. I know it’s going to be a huge
challenge for us, especially after losing three games over there already. The
pressure is on both teams.”

The winner Saturday will have home-court advantage against Golden State in the
second round, as the eighth-seeded Warriors completed one of the biggest
upsets in playoff history with a 111-86 victory over Dallas in Game 6 of that
series.

The Rockets used a 10-2 burst to bolt to a 12-8 lead, with Alston’s three
capping the flurry. Houston led 22-20 after the opening quarter.

The intensity was turned up a notch in the second, a period in which the
Rockets were ahead by as many as seven. McGrady’s jumper moved the margin to
33-26 with just over seven minutes left in the half. However, the Jazz came
back with the ensuing seven points.

Alston then hit a running jumper, and tensions ran high moments later when
Howard was issued a technical foul for giving a hard foul to Okur, who was in
the act of shooting a jumper. Howard’s right forearm came down on the head of
Okur, who immediately got off the floor to confront Howard. Dick Bavetta then
whistled the technical on Howard, who continued to argue with the official at
close quarters.

Yao’s jam moved the Rockets ahead 43-41 with a minute left in the half, but
Gordan Giricek accounted for the final five points of the stanza with a three
and a pair of free throws. That gave the Jazz a 46-43 edge at the break.

The Jazz, who have led at halftime in every game of this series, quickly
extended to a 60-50 lead following a layup from Boozer with 8:12 left in the
third. A three-pointer from Okur made it 65-54 before the Rockets got within
68-62 entering the fourth.

Game Notes

McGrady has never advanced out of the first round of the playoffs in five
previous tries…Sloan (81-83) moved alone into sixth place on the NBA’s all-
time playoffs win list, passing Lenny Wilkens…Including the regular season,
Houston has lost 21 of its last 23 games at Utah.

HOU UTA