Blazers dazed by 5-point fourth quarter against Jazz
Posted: Wednesday May 19, 1999 11:57 PM
The Blazers' deep frontcourt had hounded, harassed and hacked Karl Malone into ineffectiveness for three quarters. Portland's team speed, youth and rest were making Utah look slow, old and tired.
Everything was positioned for a Portland win -- but when the fourth quarter began, the Blazers' shots mysteriously stopped falling. Their poise soon evaporated into a cloud of turnovers and ill-advised shots as Utah exploded past them for a 93-83 win in Game 1.
"We just had a whole lot of things go wrong at the same time," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Once we lost that momentum we had built up, we were vulnerable, and the Jazz know how to take advantage of that."
Game 2 in the series is Thursday night at the Delta Center. Portland's Greg Anthony called it "a must-win game for us, because Utah is too tough to give a two-game lead."
At practice Wednesday morning, the Blazers weren't sure how much they should change their approach. After all, almost everything worked -- that is, until nothing did.
"It's hard to pinpoint a turning point there," said Damon Stoudamire, who committed four turnovers and missed two shots in the fourth. "When you miss 14 of your 16 shots like we did, you're not going to win any game."
Portland scored five fourth-quarter points, the fewest in any fourth quarter since the inception of the shot clock and the fewest in any quarter of any playoff game.
"It kind of breaks your spirits a little bit when that happens at the end of a game," forward Brian Grant said. "We've just got to put it behind us, because it can't do us any good now, only harm."
After averaging 19 points and nine rebounds per game during Portland's first-round sweep of Phoenix, Grant had another solid game. He played just 31 minutes before fouling out, but got 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting and six rebounds.
"I don't give any fault to the referees, because they're part of the game," Grant said. "We did a lot of good things, but mistakes down the stretch tend to negate all that good that you did."
For the Jazz, it was their fourth straight game decided in the final minute. In the previous two, the Sacramento Kings pushed Utah to the brink of playoff elimination before letting the Jazz back in with missed shots and bad defense.
"We don't beat ourselves, and sometimes in the playoffs, that's the difference," Malone said. "We haven't played that well yet in the postseason, but we don't get caught up in the pressures ... of a high-intensity situation like the playoffs. We just take what they give us, and sometimes they'll give you the game if you let them."
The Jazz have beaten the Blazers three straight times going back to the regular season. Utah coach Jerry Sloan wanted to keep his team focused on Portland's three solid quarters of play in Game 1.
"It appeared they knew our plays better than we did sometimes," Sloan said. "They were much more lively than us, and we were fortunate that their open shots stopped going down. That was probably the only reason we won."
Sloan praised forward Bryon Russell for his 18-point, seven-rebound performance. Russell said his sprained ankle is only 75 percent healed, but he decisively won his matchup with Rasheed Wallace, who was 3-of-8 from the field and had just three rebounds.
Russell, who excels both in slashing to the basket and hitting the spot-up jumper, plays the kind of free-flowing game the Blazers enjoy. Though he is several inches shorter than Wallace, Russell's quickness counted more on Tuesday night.
"Bryon gave us the effort we need at that spot. With all their quality big men, Bryon has to have a huge series for us to be successful," Sloan said.
With 10:35 left in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and the Blazers clinging to a 78-74 lead, Wallace slammed Russell to the floor while defending Russell's layup attempt. The resulting flagrant and technical fouls against Wallace allowed the Jazz to tie the game, and they never trailed again.
"That play was no big thing to me, because I knew it was a bogus call," Wallace said. "We weren't robbed of that game, but that call wasn't the thing that started us playing bad, either. I don't know what did that."
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