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Jazz Beat Rockets; Advance in Playoffs

Jazz Beat Rockets; Advance in Playoffs



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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HOUSTON (AP) -- The Utah Jazz have won their first playoff series since the days of Karl Malone and John Stockton.

The Rockets' Tracy McGrady leaned over in front of his bench as time ran out, his hands on his knees as he absorbed one more playoff failure.

The young Utah Jazz, meanwhile, embraced one another and quietly celebrated after the 103-99 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Carlos Boozer had 35 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in Game 7 for the Jazz, who became only the seventh team since 2001 to come back from a 2-0 deficit and win a series. They're also just the 19th visiting team to win in 97 Game 7s in playoff history.

McGrady had 29 points and 13 assists, but the seven-time All-Star fell to 0-6 in the playoffs. The Rockets -- his Rockets -- blew a 2-0 lead for the second time in three seasons. They won twice in Dallas in 2005, then dropped the series in seven games.

Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer (5) dislodges the ball from Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (11) of China in the first half in Game 7.
Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer (5) dislodges the ball from Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (11) of China in the first half in Game 7. (Photo: (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan))

The home team had won the previous six games in this series, but all the games at the Toyota Center had gone down to the wire.

This game was the closest one of all. This time, Boozer and the Jazz came up with the plays to finally break through.

Deron Williams had 20 points and 14 assists and Mehmet Okur scored 16 and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Utah, which is in the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Boozer grabbed two key offensive rebounds in the final 90 seconds, then hit two free throws with 19.9 seconds left to seal the victory and silence the capacity crowd in Houston for the last time.

Yao Ming had 29 points and six rebounds and Shane Battier had 16 points and went 4-of-7 from 3-point range for the Rockets, who haven't won a playoff series since 1997.

The Jazz will open the second round against Golden State on Monday night in Salt Lake City. The teams split four games during the regular season.

Utah Jazz guard Deron Williams (8) drives the ball past Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (11), during the fourth quarter.
Utah Jazz guard Deron Williams (8) drives the ball past Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (11), during the fourth quarter. (Photo: (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan))

The Rockets trailed by 16 in the first half as the Jazz threatened to turn the deciding game into a rout.

Yao and McGrady both came out attacking the basket in the second half, scoring 13 of Houston's first 15 points, all on dunks and layups.

Yao hyperextended his right knee trying to stop Williams on a drive and went to the floor. After a few nervous minutes for the fans, Yao stayed in the game and promptly blocked a Boozer shot.

The Jazz led 75-67 after three quarters, but Yao and McGrady each scored to start a 7-0 run in the opening minutes of the fourth.

Utah Jazz's Deron Williams, left, and Carlos Boozer celebrate in the final seconds of Game 7.
Utah Jazz's Deron Williams, left, and Carlos Boozer celebrate in the final seconds of Game 7. (Photo: (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan))

Rafer Alston banked in a 3-pointer with 8:38 left to force an 80-80 tie. On the Rockets' next trip down, Yao got fouled on an offensive rebound and hit two free throws to give Houston its first lead since the opening minute.

Boozer and McGrady traded acrobatic shots over the next two minutes and Boozer cut Houston's lead to 88-85 on a strong drive past Battier. Juwan Howard missed a jumper at the other end before Andrei Kirilenko sank a 3-pointer with 5:05 remaining to tie the game at 88-all.

Two minutes later, Okur made a 3-pointer from the wing to give Utah the lead for good. The Rockets cut it to one twice, but Boozer outleaped the 7-foot-6 Yao for an offensive rebound.

Okur finished that possession with a 3-pointer from the wing, putting the Jazz up 99-95. Yao hit two free throws with 57.8 seconds left, but Boozer grabbed another offensive board and hit two free throws with 19.9 seconds to go.

Notes:@ The Jazz led all seven games at halftime. ... Hakeem Olajuwon, who led the Rockets to championships in 1994 and '95, had a courtside seat next to team owner Les Alexander. ... Utah beat Houston in the playoffs for the fourth time in six meetings.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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