Blazers blow it
Portland held to five points in 4th as Utah takes Game 1
Posted: Wednesday May 19, 1999 02:44 AM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Three quarters of solid play and a fourth of shocking ineptitude added up to a disheartening loss for the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers scored just five points in the fourth quarter of their 93-83 loss to the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Tuesday night. That's the fewest scored in one quarter in NBA playoff history, one less than the Atlanta Hawks scored in the third quarter of a 1986 playoff game against Boston.
Portland's five fourth-quarter points also were fewer than in any regular-season game, the previous low being six by Detroit against Orlando in 1993. The low for fourth-quarter points in a playoff game was eight, by New Jersey in 1993 and Houston in 1994.
A lively, intense game between two bitter rivals gradually turned into a debacle as the Blazers clanged shot after shot. Afterward, Portland was eager to forget about playing terribly when it counted the most.
"If we win Game 2, you won't even be asking us about what went wrong tonight," Portland guard Damon Stoudamire said. "Nobody's going to make excuses in this locker room. We lost this one, and we'll come back harder."
There was no one person for the Blazers to blame. Seven players contributed to Portland's 2-for-16 fourth-quarter shooting. Even in the final minute, after Utah put the game away, the Blazers missed two wide-open shots that could have saved them from infamy.
"That was a game we thought we had earned the right to win, but when you do what we did in the fourth quarter, there's no chance," Portland guard Greg Anthony said.
Portland's previous franchise-low in the fourth quarter was 13, in 1993 against San Antonio, and its low in any quarter was 12 in the second period against Houston in 1987.
"Their defense was excellent," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "They defended well and made it tough for us to get good shots and looks at the basket."
Karl Malone had 25 points and 12 rebounds for Utah, which trailed 78-74 entering the fourth quarter. The Trail Blazers missed their first eight shots and 12 of their first 13 in the fourth as the Jazz opened with an 11-1 run.
"I saw them take a lot of open shots, and none of them went in," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "It wasn't so much our defense. They just couldn't get anything at all for a while."
Portland, the league's youngest playoff team, outplayed Utah until self-destructing in the closing minutes with bad shot selection, turnovers and poor defense. Meanwhile, Utah got critical baskets from Malone and Bryon Russell while playing intimidating defense.
With one minute to play and the Blazers down by eight, the Jazz got consecutive baskets on offensive rebounds to seal the win. The Jazz won the opening game in their fifth straight series.
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is at the Delta Center on Thursday.
The Blazers played their first game in a week after sweeping Phoenix in the first round. The Jazz eliminated Sacramento in Game 5 on Sunday. Portland's rest advantage was obvious in the first half, as the Blazers took a 15-point lead and threatened to blow the game open.
But Malone and Russell got the Jazz close. Utah took the lead with eight minutes left and then watched the Blazers self-destruct.
Layups by Brian Grant and Stoudamire were the Blazers' only field goals in the fourth quarter. Grant finished with 19 points, while Stoudamire added 15.
Russell finished with 18 points.
Twenty-two of the 24 players in uniform had been in the game by midway through the second quarter, as Portland big men Grant, Arvydas Sabonis and Kelvin Cato each picked up two fouls through the first 11 minutes.
Grant and Malone, both of whom talked tough about physical play before the series, had two altercations in the first half. Grant appeared to trip Malone as he went for a breakaway layup, and minutes later, Malone elbowed Grant in the face while going for another basket. They exchanged words after the second incident.
Tempers flared again in the fourth quarter when Portland's Rasheed Wallace flattened Russell underneath the basket. Wallace was called for a flagrant foul and then was charged with a technical as both coaches ran onto the court before a fight could break out.
Portland thought the incident shifted the game's momentum.
"That was when it started to switch," said Isaiah Rider, who had 12 points. "They started playing more aggressive after that. My boy [Wallace] gets too excited sometimes."
Anthony had three of Portland's nine first-half steals and keyed a 10-2 second-quarter run that put the Blazers up 42-27. Utah rallied with offense from Shandon Anderson and Russell, but Stoudamire's 10-footer at the buzzer put Portland up 50-48 at halftime.
Historically, a Game 1 misstep by Portland doesn't bode well. From 1985 to 1998, the Blazers lost the first game of a playoff series 12 times, and they went on to lose the series each time.
Portland has recovered from a series-opening loss to win the series only twice in franchise history (2-19) and just once in the last 22 years.
Notes: Utah and Portland had identical league-best 22-3 home records. The Jazz split two regular-season games at the Rose Garden and won the only meeting in the Delta Center. ... The Blazers have 10 players on their roster who were lottery draft picks, the most in the NBA. The Jazz have two (reserves Adam Keefe and Todd Fuller). ... When debris was thrown on the court midway through the second quarter, Portland coach Mike Dunleavy went nearly to the other side of the floor to collect it while play continued at the other end.
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