Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah's Carlos Boozer (5) finds grabbing one of his game-high 20 rebounds a scream; Mehmet Okur and Derek Fisher watch.

Not since April 19 in the first postseason game at Houston has Carlos Boozer been himself.

He answered question after question about his slump and perhaps questioned himself.

"It's tough," he said after breaking out in a big way Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena, finally solving his demons against the Los Angeles Lakers with 27 points and tying a career playoff-high of 20 rebounds as Utah took its first win of the second round, 104-99.

"It wasn't just those two games (at Los Angeles, when he had 14 points and 14 rebounds and 19 points and 10 rebounds). I had a tough first round as well. For me it was like eight games I felt like I was struggling. That's why I couldn't sleep at night after games, after Game 2."

Boozer said it was up to him to just stop pressing and get back to having fun on the court.

Perhaps the most fun he had was three straight pick-and-roll baskets starting with about three minutes left after Los Angeles had cut what had been a 95-86 Jazz lead to 95-92.

"Coach made an adjustment, put everybody on the weak side and let me and Deron (Williams) do what we do," Boozer said. "They doubled Deron and tried to take the ball out of his hands, and I knocked down some shots, and it gave us a little bit of a cushion."

Boozer's three baskets boosted it back up to 101-92 and gave him 12-for-21 shooting for the night after five straight games shooting well below .500.

The Jazz have had only four 20-20 games in their playoff history, three by Karl Malone. It was the first 20-board night of the season for Utah.

"We knew he was going to come out sooner or later," said Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer. "He's a great player, All-Star caliber guy. We're going to keep going to him. It's not like we're going to shy away from him, Memo (Okur) or AK (Andrei Kirlenko).

"Carlos stepped up big for us tonight," he added.

"I just tried to stop thinking so much out there," said Boozer, who expected to sleep much better Friday night but would watch the game again as his wife, CeCe, taped it for him.

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

Boozer did have four fouls, but they didn't take as much playing time away from him as they have in some other playoff games.

He used his rebounding game and defense, which had been questioned at times, to build the rest of his game. "That was the key. I thought if I'd get out there and try to be aggressive defensively, try to get some steals, try to be a little bit more aggressive with my feet, move my feet better and try to stay out of foul trouble — it just trickled down."

The rebounding came from "just the same thing, going out there playing loose, being aggressive," Boozer said. "Sometimes you can get back in a rhythm by just being aggressive on the boards for a big guy, and I tried to focus on that and attack the ball."

Now the trick is to maintain.

"For me it was a great night. I'm looking forward to building off of this game, and continue to play with confidence and be aggressive and just have fun," Boozer said. "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."


E-mail: lham@desnews.com