John Stockton was in the house, seated in the stands with a few of his kids, for the Jazz's playoff game Thursday night.

The way a certain power forward played, you would've thought the Hall-of-Famer's sidekick was on the EnergySolutions Arena court at the same time, too.

Different jersey number and era. Similar game on this night.

Doing a pretty impressive Mailman impersonation and hours after saying he and his team needed to "play like there's no tomorrow," Carlos Boozer delivered a huge outing for the Jazz.

He picked a fine time to do it, too.

Boozer's Karl Malone-esque 23-point, 22-rebound effort was a big-time boost for Utah in its thrilling 88-86 victory that trimmed the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round series lead to 2-1.

"He's back," said Jazz point guard Deron Williams shortly after hitting the game-winning shot.

Back in a big playing-like-a-two-time-All-Star-and-Olympian way, too.

Heck, Boozer was so back to his old ways against the longer Lakers, and made such a big impact, played so well, worked so hard — not through sleet, rain or hail, but mostly around Pau Gasol — that he even heard more cheers than jeers from the crowd.

And that's saying something considering how many boos — and we're not talking the chummy "Booz!" variety — he's received in the past few months from frustrated fans.

Whether fair or not, some Utah supporters have questioned his desire to be here for the long haul because of his mid-season opt-out contract talk and openly wondered and worried about his commitment to the team because he missed 44 games with a left knee injury and surgery.

They might choose to leave their differences on the sidelines — as long as Boozer doesn't return there, of course — for the near future.

When his town and team needed him most, Boozer got the home crowd back on his side in a big way — probably even the doubters and disappointed — with a first-half flurry the franchise has never before seen.

Not even, mind you, in the Malone days.

In front of a TNT audience, Boozer snatched rebounds off the glass as enthusiastically as you'd imagine eclectic reporter Craig Sager grabs funky and fluorescent outfits from thrift shops. In what he called a "must-win game," Boozer played like every rebound was a must-grab. He hauled in 11 rebounds in the first quarter, cleaned the glass a total of 16 times by halftime and finished with 22 boards.

All of those remarkable numbers set or tied Jazz records for rebounds in a playoff game, besting — who else? — Malone's previous marks of eight (quarter), 14 (half) and 22 (game) that No. 32 set 20 years ago.

"As long as we win," he said after the big win, "that's all that matters."

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Though he was on the bench when his buddies helped the Jazz storm back from a second-half 13-point deficit, Boozer again made his 266-pound presence known again down the stretch.

Three times in the final 1-1/2 minutes, Boozer gave the Jazz two-point leads with strong drives that resulted in free throws, a layup and a left-handed power jam.

Boozer, who's scored 20 or more in all three playoff games, wasn't just a rebounding machine, though. He had 13 of his team-high 23 points in the first half. He also swiped a pass from Gasol and made a pair of nifty assists for inside buckets to Paul Millsap and Ronnie Brewer as the Jazz established themselves with a much stronger first half. They even had a lead at the break at 43-39 after trailing by double-digits in the two losses in L.A.

E-mail: jody@desnews.com