Work in Sports
One at a time
Blazers trying not to look ahead to a sweep
Posted: Thursday May 11, 2000 09:58 AM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- After two lopsided victories, the Portland Trail Blazers are cautious about Thursday night's third game against the Utah Jazz.
But the possibilities are tempting.
"The first game at their place is very, very important," Portland forward Brian Grant said. "You can really set yourself up for the kill if you can get Game 3."
Slow down, Brian. Most of the talk Wednesday at the Blazers' practice was the "one game at a time" variety. Portland modestly is hoping for a split in the two games at the Delta Center.
"We have to go there and try to get one game," Scottie Pippen said. "They're going to play better on their court. We expect that."
Up to this point, it's been a breeze for Portland. They're playing like a team destined for something greater. The Jazz, meanwhile, have been exposed as a proud but aging group.
"We went out there and got our butts kicked," forward Bryon Russell said. "We've got to go home and defend our home court, then we're back to square one."
The Blazers have disrupted Utah's famed pick-and-roll, turning one of Utah's greatest strengths into a weakness.
"I don't think nothing has changed over the last four years with the type of offense they run," Pippen said. "It's about us knowing what their plays are about and staying between them and the basket."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan gave his players the day off Wednesday to reflect on their predicament. Before the Blazers left for Salt Lake City, they proclaimed Utah would be a different team at home.
"They'll fight back," Grant said. "They will fight and claw and scratch and kick when we go up there, and it's going to be a game."
Portland has dominated the individual matchups.
Arvydas Sabonis has been a better shooter than Utah's Olden Polynice. Damon Stoudamire has been a half-step faster than the 38-year-old John Stockton.
Russell is having trouble defending Steve Smith and Pippen. The assignment on Pippen has nagged Russell since the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals, when Pippen and the Chicago Bulls beat the Jazz.
Jeff Hornacek turned 37 earlier this month and has been limited by a creaky left knee. At 6-foot-4, he also faces a disadvantage against the 6-8 Smith and the 6-7 Pippen.
"They're doing a lot of things right," Hornacek said. "They're very active. It's not going good for us right now, but if we go home and get some confidence back, we'll be OK."
And the brash Rasheed Wallace is getting the best of Karl Malone, holding the star forward to 22 points in Game 1 and 15 in Game 2.
But Malone's attitude is that it's a best-of-seven series.
"The most important thing is not to get your head down," he said. "This team has never given up before."
Portland has won five consecutive against Utah dating to the regular season, including a 90-86 victory at the Delta Center on April 10.
"One thing you learn in this business is that a series is never won until it's won," Blazers guard Greg Anthony said. "We can't get complacent, and we have to come out with an even better effort because they're going to play at a much higher level."