Work in Sports
Jazz hitting wrong notes against Portland
Posted: Friday May 12, 2000 09:43 PM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Trail Blazers and Jazz had the day off. The way the Trail Blazers are playing, they don't need the practice. The Jazz, once again, could use the rest.
Portland took a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals Thursday night with its third lopsided victory in the series. The Trail Blazers go for the sweep in Game 4 on Sunday.
"The mind-set for us right now is to close the series out when we have the opportunity," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "You don't want to give anybody any life, any chance to get back into it. You don't want an injury to come into play."
Portland has won the first three games by 19, 18 and 19 points, leaving the Jazz one game from being swept for the first time in franchise history.
"I would like to sit here and tell you guys it's no big deal that we're down 3-0, but I'd be lying," Karl Malone said. "We've got our work cut out for us in a big way."
How strong are the Blazers? Consider that point guard Damon Stoudamire and forward Scottie Pippen each scored four points in Game 3. Portland's bench made up the difference, outscoring Utah's reserves 35-2.
"They just keep throwing guys at you," Malone said. "That's the kind of team they have."
Bonzi Wells, the 10th player off Portland's bench, scored 19 in his second playoff appearance, including 10 in the fourth quarter. The Blazers pulled away after Utah had erased a 21-point second-quarter deficit.
"We made a nice run, but you don't have any room for a letdown at that point once you're close or tied," John Stockton said. "You almost have to dig in a little deeper and we didn't do that."
Depth is making a great difference. Pippen was asked how Portland compares to his old Chicago Bulls teams, where he and Michael Jordan won six NBA titles.
"I think this team right now is much stronger and well-rounded, and I said that early on in the season," Pippen said. "From a talent standpoint, we're a much stronger team."
The Blazers have not been intimidated on the road. Before Friday night's game between the Lakers and Suns, home teams in the Western Conference playoffs were 20-3, with the Blazers winning twice on the road. Portland also won Game 4 in the first round at Minnesota.
"We've been a good road team all year," Stoudamire said. "That's nothing new. We've been able to come into opposing arenas and do what we want to do. We thrive in us-against-them situations."
Utah coach Jerry Sloan limited practice late in the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs to preserve his players. Four of the five Jazz starters are at least 35.
It worked in the first round, with Utah taking the day off before a stirring Game 5 victory over Seattle. It didn't matter earlier this week, when Utah rested after returning home from Portland facing a 2-0 deficit.
"I won't do much," Malone said. "It's probably one of those 'Don't answer the phone' type of days."
The way things are going, it would probably be a collect call from Oregon anyway.