McGrady finds touch after halftime, helps Rockets slip by Jazz

Associated Press • Apr 22, 2007 at 12:42 PM

HOUSTON - Maybe Tracy McGrady just needed a minute to adjust.

Playing with home-court advantage for the first time in his career, the seven-time All-Star had just one point at halftime before scoring 16 in the third quarter to lead the Houston Rockets to 84-75 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night in Game 1 of their first round playoff series.

McGrady, who scored 23 points, was 0-for-6 in the first half. Before his outburst, the Rockets relied on Yao Ming, who finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds.

Utah led by nine at halftime and was ahead 49-41 before Houston went on an 8-2 run, fueled by seven points by McGrady to get within two. A jump shot by Deron Williams made it 53-49 before a 3-pointer by Battier put Houston within striking distance.

The Rockets took a 54-53 lead late in the third when Derek Fisher missed a fast-break layup and Rafer Alston got the rebound and found Yao alone at the other end of the court for a one-handed dunk.

McGrady's 16 points in the third quarter came on 7-of-8 shooting. After Yao's dunk, he made a long two before sinking a 3 on the next possession to push Houston's lead to 59-53. After the 3, McGrady backpedaled while repeatedly yelling "Yeah" at the frenzied crowd.

The Jazz made just four shots in the quarter and Carlos Boozer missed 3 of 6 free throw attempts. Boozer finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds and Matt Harpring had 14 points.

Utah cut the lead to two several times early in the fourth quarter, but each time the Rockets answered. Consecutive 3s by Alston and Luther Head stretched Houston's lead to 71-63 and the Jazz didn't threaten again.

McGrady hit a 3, followed by a pair of free throws late in the fourth to make it 78-65.

Williams had 15 points, nine assists and nine rebounds for Utah. Fisher added 15 points.

After missing the postseason last year, the Rockets are looking to win a playoff series for the first time since 1997 behind McGrady, who is winless in five career playoff series. The Jazz, in the playoffs for the first time since 2003, won three of four regular-season meetings.

Game 2 is Monday night in Houston.

The Jazz led by one after the first quarter, but Houston made just 2 of 13 shots in the second quarter and trailed 42-33 at halftime. It would have been worse if not for seven free throws by Yao in the quarter. McGrady had seven assists and Alston finished with nine points, eight assists and 11 rebounds.

NOTES: Chuck Hayes missed Saturday's shootaround for the birth of his first child, a son, Dorian Titus Hayes. He returned in time for the game and made his first playoff start and had four points and nine rebounds. ... Yao's 13 rebounds are a playoff best for the center, whose previous high was 11 against the Lakers in 2004. ... Williams came just shy of joining Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as the only players to record triple-doubles against the Rockets in the playoffs.

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