Rockets spoil Jazz’s home opener

By By Jason Peterson

By Jason Peterson

Maybe it was the 40,000 balloons that dropped from the arena’s ceiling and were subsequently popped with the resonance of a megaphone held to a machine gun.

Or maybe it was the relentless pounding of the T-Mac Attack.

Either way, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and the rest of the gang likely woke up this morning with a headache following Thursday night’s 106-95 loss to the Houston Rockets.

Rockets star Tracy McGrady hammered the Jazz by dropping 47 points and spoiled Utah’s home-opener in front of a sellout crowd of 19,911.

McGrady made up for an off-night from his sidekick, Yao Ming, who managed just 11 points and seven rebounds.

Mike James, whom the Rockets acquired from Minnesota in June, gave the new-look Rockets a threat from the outside by scoring 15 points and adding seven assists. James was one of the several new faces, including coach Rick Adelman and his fast-paced style, that Houston features this season.

“It’s a different season,” McGrady said. “(We’re) more up-tempo, playing off the ball, more movement. This is a fun system to play in.”

Houston came into Salt Lake City looking to exact revenge on the Jazz, who knocked the Rockets out of the first round in last season’s playoffs. After the series, many wrote off McGrady as being incapable of leading a team deep into the playoffs.

For his part, however, McGrady maintained that there were no hard feelings.

“It doesn’t really mean anything,” he said. “It’s only the second game of the season. They beat us in the playoffs, but I don’t hold a grudge.”

Extending from last season, McGrady proved that the Jazz still have no answer for defending the NBA’s prolific scorers.

“It’s tough to stop a guy like (McGrady),” said Williams. “He’s a superstar in this league. Him, Kobe, guys that can take over a game, and he’s one of those guys.”

Carlos Boozer followed Tuesday night’s 32 points and 15 rebounds with another strong outing of 30 and 16. Williams also chipped in an encore performance with 18 points and 13 assists.

Mehmet Okur, who failed to score Tuesday because of early foul trouble, managed to stay on the court and registered a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Ronnie Brewer added 13 with three steals, but the second-year guard struggled to hang with McGrady all night. McGrady scored 26 in the first half and led Houston to a 78-66 lead to open the fourth quarter.

“It’s early in the season and you learn from your mistakes,” Brewer said. “Hopefully next time we play them I’ll challenge him a little harder and make him make tougher shots.”

Behind Boozer’s 10 points in the final quarter, Utah jacked up the intensity to playoff level. But McGrady had an answer for every Jazz basket, including a three-point dagger with just more than five minutes remaining. McGrady ran back down the court with a finger over his lips, silencing the crowd.

The string of 2007 NBA playoff matches for the Jazz will resume Saturday. Having already played two of their three opponents from the most recent trip to the playoffs, Utah will go against their second-round opponent — the Golden State Warriors — for the second time in three games, this time at home.

The Jazz opened their season Tuesday against the Warriors as if they hadn’t skipped a beat from their five-game disposal of Golden State in the second round. The Jazz were led by what helped them get passed the Warriors in June: the inside presence of Carlos Boozer and the dominance of the offensive glass.

The Jazz will then make a quick trip to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Sunday night.

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Tyler Cobb

Houston’s Chuck Hayes blocks Deron Williams as he drives to the basket during the Jazz’ 106-95 loss Thursday night at EnergySolutions Arena.