Jazz come up golden against Warriors

By By Jason Peterson

By Jason Peterson

One down, 81 to go.

The Utah Jazz fought off a determined Golden State Warriors squad for a season-opening 117-96 win in Oakland’s raucous Oracle Arena.

Going into the game, the Jazz knew the Warriors would be seeking revenge after Utah blew the Warriors out of the Western Conference semifinals in last season’s playoffs. And they were right.

The Warriors came out with their traditional run-‘n’-gun style and the Jazz appeared blindsided for much of the first quarter, playing right into the Warriors’ hands.

By the second quarter, however, Utah regrouped and played to its own pace — pounding the ball the into paint where Jazz forward Carlos Boozer scored 18 in the first half. Boozer went on to finish with 32 points and 15 rebounds to lead Utah.

Jazz point guard Deron Williams complemented Boozer with 24 points and eight assists. The duo combined for 28 points in the first half and powered the Jazz to a 24-point lead late in the game — a lead that proved too much for Golden State to overcome.

Ronnie Brewer supported his case to become Utah’s permanent two-guard by shooting 8-of-14 for 18 points. Brewer also appeased coach Jerry Sloan with his defense, registering four steals.

The Warriors’ efforts were spearheaded by Baron Davis’ 25 points, 10 assists and five steals. Mickael Pietrus added 17 points for Golden State.

The Jazz will face another victim of last season’s playoff run tomorrow night when they play host to the Houston Rockets, who beat the Lakers in their season opener on Tuesday. The duo of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming is itching for payback after getting ousted in a grueling seven-game series in May.

Rockets management gave the team a new look — right down to installing a new hardwood floor in the team’s home arena, “Extreme Makeover” style.

Shortly after the Jazz sent the Rockets packing, Houston fired head coach and defensive guru Jeff Van Gundy and hired Rick Adelman, who orchestrated the offensive juggernaut of the Sacramento Kings for eight years. Adelman’s schemes will utilize Yao’s passing ability out of the high post, much like Chris Webber or Vlade Divac used to operate for the Kings.

Over the next two months, Houston traded veteran forward Juwan Howard to Minnesota for a proven scorer in point guard Mike James. They also drafted another spark-plug point in Aaron Brooks and signed former Rockets star Steve Francis to a two-year deal.

Aside from “Stevie Franchise,” most Houston fans will have their eyes on rookie Luis Scola, a 27-year-old veteran of international basketball from Argentina.

Adelman hopes that Scola will fill the hole at the power forward spot and finally give the Rockets a compatible front-court mate with Yao.

Scola will likely struggle in the early going against the likes of Boozer and the other forwards in the West, but the rookie could become a valuable asset, like fellow Argentine Fabricio Oberto has become for the Spurs.

The Jazz insist there isn’t any bad blood carrying over from the melee in May. They will hardly recognize the Rockets behind all the new faces.

But Utah will likely have to brace itself for a much different, much faster Rockets club under Adelman’s tutelage.

Utah has won its last five home-openers (including last year’s opener against Houston) and hope to make it six in a row this season.

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Associated Press