Portland wins third in a row
Jazz falter down stretch as Blazers grab 3-1 series lead
Posted: Monday May 24, 1999 08:55 AM
Isaiah Rider scored 24 points and Rasheed Wallace intercepted an inbounds pass from Utah's Bryon Russell with 14 seconds left as the Blazers held to win 81-75 Sunday night to take control of the best-of-7 Western Conference semifinals 3-1.
"Everybody knows we can win hitting on all cylinders," said Portland coach Mike Dunleavy, whose team shot just 34 percent. "But tonight we had to search for a way to win. We had to scratch and grind and work through our problems. And we did it against a team with their backs against the wall."
The Jazz pulled within 76-75 on John Stockton's three-point play with 16 seconds left. Rider hit two free throws with 14 seconds left, and Russell inbounded the ball from midcourt toward Stockton with a chance to tie the game.
But the pass was too long for Stockton, and Wallace grabbed the ball. Rider hit one of two free throws with 8.6 seconds left for a four-point lead.
"I should have called a timeout, but I didn't," Russell said. "I was taking a chance, and the chance went against me. It's nothing to pout about. I made the mistake. It was just something that happened, and I've got to go on with it."
Arvydas Sabonis had 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Blazers.
Karl Malone and Russell each had 17 points and Stockton added 16 for the Jazz, who have lost three in a row for the first time all season.
"We deserve to be beat by this team," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "They outplayed us the entire way. I can live with that. I can't live with the fact that [we] aren't going to compete. I thought they had all the energy to do what was necessary."
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Salt Lake City.
"We know it'll be a madhouse there," Portland's Brian Grant said of the Delta Center. "But we're not going there just to play. We will try to close this thing out."
Portland made for the poor shooting from the field by going 33 of 42 from the free throw line, while Utah was 16-of-26.
"It got ugly out there, but we were able to keep our composure," said Grant, who was held to seven points but scored five straight early in the fourth quarter. "It was just one of those days where things didn't work out. Our shots didn't fall."
The Blazers beat Utah for the 10th straight time in the playoffs in Portland. They are 11-1 overall in the postseason at home against the Jazz, whose last playoff win here was April 30, 1988, in the first round.
"We're in a big hole right now, but it's amazing what one game can do," Malone said. "You win one, and all of a sudden you get a little momentum going. We have to win to keep playing."
Like Game 2, in which both teams scored an NBA playoff record-low 25 points in the first quarter, they shot poorly but the game ended up close.
Jim Jackson converted a three-point play to give the Blazers a 72-66 lead with four minutes left. But Utah stormed back with four straight points to pull within 72-70. Malone found Stockton for one of their patented give-and-go layups, and Malone hit a medium-range baseline jumper with 2:49 left.
The next two minutes were furious and fruitless. Stockton missed a layup, Shandon Anderson a jumper, and Stockton was called for an offensive foul. The Blazers turned the ball over twice on their two possessions.
Rider hit a short jumper in the lane to give the Blazers a 74-70 lead with 29 seconds left. The Jazz responded with an 18-foot jumper from Malone to pull within two with 22 seconds to play.
Portland cemented the win by making seven of eight free throws over the final 21 seconds.
"They're going to come out tough, determined to win, especially at home," Jackson said of the Jazz. "But they know this could be their last shot at a championship, if they lose one more game. So there's going to be a lot of pressure on them."
The Jazz, who lost to Chicago in the last two NBA Finals, faced elimination twice in the best-of-5 opening round against Sacramento, rallying from a 2-1 deficit to win. They did the same last season in the first round against Houston.
After their 97-87 loss in Game 3, the Jazz needed a quick start Sunday night, and they didn't get one.
The Jazz missed nine of their first 10 shots, but Portland missed nine of its first 11, and the Blazers led just 8-2 seven minutes into the game. A running hook by Sabonis gave the Blazers a 20-11 lead after one quarter.
Portland shot just 20 percent (3-for-15) in the second quarter, but held on to a slim 38-35 halftime lead by making 11 of 12 free throws.
Utah trailed by as many as 11 points in the quarter, but crept back as Portland went nearly eight minutes without a field goal.
"If there was any reason to be upset, it was the way we started the game," Sloan said. "I didn't think we came out with the idea that we were going to win as a team."
A near fight between Utah's Thurl Bailey and Portland's Rasheed Wallace sparked the Jazz. After the Blazers' Walt Williams missed a 3-pointer, Wallace and Bailey got tangled up, and Wallace shoved Bailey away. Utah coach Jerry Sloan leaped past Bailey to get between the players, and there was nothing but yelling after that. Both players were assessed personal and technical fouls.
Sloan said he intervened because he saw his player get punched, but Bailey said he didn't feel a punch.
Notes: The Jazz wore their traditional purple road uniforms Saturday and lost, falling to 2-7 in those jerseys. Utah wore its newer black jerseys Sunday night and fell to 14-5 in them. ... Utah entered the game shooting 41 percent for the series, after shooting 47 percent during the regular season. ... Portland is 3-11 in the playoffs all-time in Utah. ... The Blazers outrebounded Utah for the first time in the series, 44-34. ... Jazz center Greg Ostertag had his third straight terrible game against Sabonis, going scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting in 12 minutes. He's averaging three points in the series, and has missed eight straight shots since scoring six points in Game 1. ... The Blazers are 26-3 at home this season, including 4-0 in the playoffs.
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