Blaze of glory
Blazers knock off Jazz, advance to San Antonio showdown
Posted: Saturday May 29, 1999 06:47 PM
Isaiah Rider scored 24 points, Jim Jackson had 17 and the pair combined to make 12 free throws in the final 1:05 Thursday night as the Blazers defeated the Jazz 92-80 to win their best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series 4-2.
"Tonight is a prime example of what this team has become," Jackson said. "We did a lot of maturing in this series. We learned a lot playing the Utah Jazz. We took a page out of their book, especially with the defensive intensity."
The Blazers advance to play San Antonio in the Western Conference finals beginning Saturday.
Malone had one of the worst postseason games of his career, scoring a career playoff-low 8 points on 3-for-16 shooting.
"I couldn't get anything going," Malone said. "I couldn't give our guys much help."
"It's not the end of an era. I don't look at it like that," Malone added. "We just have to wait and see, though. There's a lot of decisions to be made."
Jackson made two free throws to push the lead to 82-78 with 1:05 left. Utah's Bryon Russell missed on a 3-point attempt, and Brian Grant grabbed the rebound. Jackson made two more from the line to make it 84-78 with 45.7 seconds left.
A 3-pointer by Stockton was short, and Rider made eight free throws in the final 33 seconds to seal it.
"We knew if we let them hang around, they could get hot and win the game," Portland's Rasheed Wallace said. "We upped our defensive intensity, and it worked -- they didn't have anything left during the last couple of minutes."
Rider offered a simpler explanation: "We won because we were determined, motivated and had the will to win. That's exactly why we won."
Arvydas Sabonis had a solid game, scoring 14 points. Wallace had 14 points, and Grant had seven points and 12 rebounds.
Hornacek scored 21 points to lead the Jazz. Russell had 17. Stockton had 14 points and 10 assists.
The Blazers moved the ball better than in the past two games, getting 18 assists, led by Jackson's six. The team had a franchise-low 10 in Games 4 and 5.
"This is a very good basketball team," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "They're young, lively and they deserve to be where they are. Our guys battled them, we just didn't have enough to win against them."
There were no altercations, even after Malone elbowed Grant in Game 5, opening up a gash over his right eye. Rider had talked of retaliation, but there was none.
"We proved that we can do it, man, this year isn't a fluke for the Blazers," said Grant, who embraced Malone after the game and tried to make peace.
"We both respect each other," Grant said. "A lot of things we said to each other we didn't mean. He wished me luck and I wished him luck."
Portland took a 74-65 lead when Greg Anthony dribbled along the baseline and found Walt Williams alone in the corner for a 3-pointer with 6:40 left. The basket came after two turnovers by Malone -- a ball dropped out of bounds and an errant pass after he came up with a jump ball.
A turnaround jumper by Grant made it 78-71 with 3:30 left. A one-handed jumper by Russell and two free throws by Stockton cut it to 78-75 with 2:35 left, but Rider kept up the pressure by hanging in the air and hitting a bank shot for an 80-75 lead with 2:17 to play.
"They said [the pressure] was on us, but it wasn't on us," Rider said.
The Blazers led 64-61 to start the fourth quarter, and quickly stretched it to an eight-point lead, matching their biggest of the game on the hustle of Anthony, the backup to point guard Damon Stoudamire.
Anthony first hit a wide-open 3-pointer on pass from Rasheed Wallace. At the other end, he fought after a loose ball, dribbled down the court and found Wallace for an open jumper to make it 69-61 with 11:10 left.
Grant's aggressiveness also picked up the Blazers. He didn't get his first point or rebound until late in the first quarter, but was a presence the rest of the game and a defensive hindrance to Malone.
This was the first time in 148 career playoff games that Malone did not reach double figures.
"If I wanted to be critical, I could be critical of a lot of things," Sloan said. "It's always difficult when you lose, but the most rewarding thing in all of this is that we've always fought back. You can talk about championships all you want, but you've got to be pretty tough to always fight back."
Each team had a lead of eight points in the second quarter before faltering.
A 3-pointer and a running bank shot by Walt Williams gave the Blazers a 26-18 lead. Utah then went on a 17-1 run, and a fastbreak dunk by Russell put the Jazz ahead 35-27.
Portland responded with a hook and 3-pointer by Jim Jackson, and the Blazers outscored the Jazz 7-1 to end the quarter. Sabonis had a reverse layup and free throw, and hit a 3-pointer with 8.6 seconds left to tie it 42-all at the half.
Notes: Utah has lost its last 11 playoff games in Portland dating to 1988. ... Portland's Stacey Augmon left limping with 3:56 to go in the first quarter with what was called a nerve contusion in his left leg. He returned in the third and finished with two points. ... Bill Gates sat next to fellow Microsoft co-founder and Blazers owner Paul Allen during the game. ... The Blazers improved to 27-3 this season at the Rose Garden and 4-0 in the playoffs. ... Greg Ostertag had three points, and was outscored 43-5 by Sabonis in the three games in Portland.
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.