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Boozer wakes up game for Jazz

May 10, 2008|Jonathan Abrams | Times Staff Writer

SALT LAKE CITY -- Carlos Boozer can get a little shut-eye now.

Thoughts in his mind and replays in front of his eyes haunted him after Game 2 of Utah's series with the Lakers, a performance where he scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and was often relegated to the bench with foul trouble.

He went to sleep at 6 a.m. after Wednesday's game and stirred some three hours later for practice, bright and early Thursday.

He itched for a big Game 3, needing a bounce back for himself and his teammates if they entertained any thoughts of threatening the Lakers in this series.

On Friday, Boozer might as well have had a pogo stick.

Points?

He piled 27 of those, including 11 in a fourth quarter that could have swung either way, busting his way through the lane and knocking down his midrange jump shot.

Rebounds?

He collected 20, tying a career-playoff high and pulling down seven in that crucial fourth quarter.

Fouls?

He spent them thriftily this time, totaling only four and playing a key role in limiting Pau Gasol to a measly 12 points, six rebounds and five turnovers in Utah's 104-99 victory.

"We've all been waiting for such a big game out of me, and I've been waiting for it too," Boozer said. "I put a little too much pressure on myself. So, I tried to go back to the basics, just have fun out there, enjoy the game, play with more passion and try to stay out of foul trouble."

It's the first time in 17 games, dating to the regular season, where Boozer topped his scoring average of 21.1 points.

Late in the game, Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan went to Boozer and point guard Deron Williams on one side, letting them play a two-man game in what Boozer credited as a pivotal adjustment.

Sloan sent the credit right back.

"That's credit to him because he's always fought back," Sloan said. "Everybody goes through a stage when things are tough on them, but I think he has to do the work and he certainly did."

Sloan was most pleased with Boozer's effort on defense.

"He got beat a time or two early, but I thought he kept fighting and trying to recover from some of the things he got beat on earlier in the first two games," Sloan said.

No more slump talk from or aimed at Boozer, something that will aid him in resting up for the game Sunday.

"I hope not," Boozer said. "For me, it was a great night. I'm looking forward to building off of this game and playing with confidence.

"And just having fun. One of the biggest things about basketball is trying to remember it's a fun game. And that's what I'm trying to get back to -- just enjoying the game."

--

jonathan.abrams@latimes.com

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