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McGrady scores 22 second-half points to lead Rockets' rally

HOUSTON -- Tracy McGrady was so nervous driving to Houston's
first round playoff game against Utah his palms were sweating.

The seven-time All-Star had bigger problems than excessive
perspiration when he got on the court as he missed his first six
shots and had just one point at halftime.

He finally shook off his jitters to score 16 points in the third
quarter and lead the Rockets to an 84-75 win over the Jazz on
Saturday night in Game 1 of the series.

"I told myself at halftime to calm down," McGrady said. "I
had to take a couple of deep breaths and gather myself together
because I was on a high ... coming out in the third quarter I was
more relaxed."

McGrady finished with 23 points. Before his outburst, the
Rockets relied on Yao Ming, who finished with 28 points and 13
rebounds.

"Sometimes when you want something so bad, it works against you
a little bit," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "That's what
happened with him in the first half."

Utah led by nine at halftime and was ahead 49-41 before Houston
went on an 8-2 run, fueled by 7 points by McGrady to get within
two. A jump shot by Deron Williams made it 53-49 before a 3 by
Shane 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.

"I wish I'd have made that basket," Fisher said. "My leg gave
out as I went up and I just didn't get enough lift. Maybe I
could've slowed their momentum down a little bit if I'd have hit
that shot. I don't like to focus on one play, but I would love to
have that play back."

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
three, McGrady backpedaled while repeatedly yelling 'Yeah' at the
frenzied crowd.

"When I made my first couple jumpers, I knew I was going to get
rolling," McGrady said. "I couldn't let them deny me for two
halves. My team needed me more than ever, because I didn't give
them anything in the first half."

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

"We knew this would be a dogfight and a defensive battle,"
Williams said. "They made a nice run and we seemed to hang our
heads a little bit."

Utah cut the lead to two points 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.

"We got too big a gap and couldn't close it," said Utah coach
Jerry Sloan.

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 1 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.

Game 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.