Deron Williams had 20 points and 10 assists as Utah, 17-24 on the road during the regular season, won its second straight playoff game in Houston. The last victory came in Game 7 last season, and that was when Houston had Yao Ming.
The All-Star center is out for this series with a foot injury and the Rockets have to wonder how they're going to compete with the Jazz inside. Utah had a 34-29 rebounding edge through three quarters Saturday night and Boozer hit 10 of 20 shots.
"They've got some guys who kind of fill his spot," Boozer said of Yao's absence. "You can't replace Yao Ming."
The Rockets led last season's first-round series 2-0, before losing four of the next five. Now, Houston must win at least once in Utah, where the Jazz had an NBA-best 37-4 record.
"We're definitely happy to get the first one," Williams said. "That was our goal, to come in and steal one early."
Game 2 is Monday night.
Kirilenko hit 8 of 12 shots and Utah's reserves also contributed, outscoring Houston's reserves 28-17.
"We've had guys all year, when guys go out with fouls or injuries, that have just been able to step up," Williams said. "That just continued now."
"Yes, we miss Rafer," said McGrady, who went 7-for-21 from the field and had seven assists. "We miss his long-range shooting, we miss him controlling the tempo of the offense. We missed everything about him tonight."
Houston coach Rick Adelman conceded the Rockets can't afford to have any starter misfiring if they're going to make this series competitive.
"(Jackson) really struggled making shots," Adelman said. "The situation we're in, we can't have off nights from too many people. We have to have more people be more efficient offensively."
The teams ended up tied with 41 rebounds apiece, but the Jazz got them when it mattered early. Utah finished with 50 points in the paint.
As Yao watched in a gray suit from the Rockets' bench, Utah outrebounded Houston 12-5 in the first quarter and led 23-18. Without the 7-foot-6 Yao to guard him, Boozer was a handful for Houston, grabbing seven rebounds and scoring six points in the quarter.
Adelman had three rookies on the floor to start the second quarter - point guard Aaron Brooks and forwards Carl Landry and Mike Harris. Even with McGrady still in the game, Utah took advantage, stretching the lead to 30-20 and forcing Adelman to call time out.
"It was big for us to come out and establish our presence early," Williams said. "We did a good job of attacking."
The Rockets outrebounded the Jazz 9-3 over the last five minutes of the half and trailed only 47-41.
Houston opened the second half with a 12-4 burst and McGrady had a hand in every point, with either a basket or an assist. He found Luis Scola open for a layup, then scored on a drive of his own to put the Rockets up 53-51, their first lead since the opening minutes.
The Jazz controlled the game from there.
Boozer scored on three straight Utah possessions, but picked up his fourth foul with 6:30 left in the third quarter and was replaced by Paul Millsap. Scola, guarded by Boozer most of the game, promptly scored inside to cut Houston's deficit to 57-55.
But Kyle Korver sank a pair of 3-pointers in the final 2:29 of the third quarter and the Jazz led 68-60. The Rockets hurt themselves further by going 6-for-12 from the free-throw line in the quarter.
Williams sank a 3-pointer with 9:29 left to extend Utah's lead into double digits again. The Rockets never made a serious threat after that.
The public-address system played the "Rocky" theme during a time out with 5:51 remaining, but the Rockets couldn't muster an inspiring comeback. McGrady didn't score in the final quarter and a half and Houston's reserves played the final four minutes.
"They've kind of taken away our first option and we're a little stagnated on the offensive end and don't know what else to do," McGrady said. "We're all out of sync and we don't have too many guys out there who can create their own shot."
Houston won its season opener in Salt Lake City, but the Rockets have lost the last three times they've met Utah in the playoffs.
- Boozer has recorded double-doubles in 14 of his last 18 playoff games.
- The Jazz won for just the third time in their last 11 road playoff games.
- Adelman has won four of five previous playoff matchups against Utah's Jerry Sloan.
- Scola had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Houston.
- The Rockets haven't won a playoff series since the 1996-97 season. That year, they lost to Utah in the Western Conference finals.