Work in Sports
Jazz have to dig deep to avoid historic sweep
Posted: Sunday May 14, 2000 02:19 AM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Jazz went back to work Saturday, down 3-0 in the Western Conference semifinals to Portland and knowing they're not likely to find a flaw in the opposing lineup.
For Game 4 on Sunday, the Jazz are looking within.
"Every guy here has got to believe in himself," Karl Malone said. "We've got to come together as a team. We've gotten all the stuff from the coaches to get the job done. We just haven't done it yet."
Three lopsided victories by the Trail Blazers have left Utah on the brink of being swept in a best-of-seven series for the first time in franchise history.
Even if the Jazz avoid elimination, it probably will only extend the season by a few days. Utah would still need three wins heading back to Portland where the Jazz are 1-14.
Right now, though, nobody in the Jazz locker room is looking too far ahead.
"We've got one game, and that makes our focus very simple," John Stockton said. "Play your best game or you're finished. If you start thinking about any other games, the hill looks too tall to climb."
After Thursday night's loss, the Jazz seemed resigned to losing the series. Two days later, they were more upbeat but with a clear sense of what they're facing.
"I don't think we've had a full team commitment yet," coach Jerry Sloan said. "We can't do that and expect to win. We're not good enough, and Portland is playing well."
The Blazers won the first three games by 19, 18 and 19 points, and on Saturday a handful of reporters were asking Portland players about playing the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals. The Lakers lead the Phoenix Suns 3-0.
Coach Mike Dunleavy wouldn't touch it. He said Game 4 will be his team's biggest test so far against the Jazz and any talk about the series being over is premature.
"I'm not falling for it," Dunleavy said. "Those guys are going to come out loaded for bear. That's the way we're looking at it."
The Jazz can play competitively, as they showed by erasing a 21-point deficit in the second quarter of Game 3. Utah's problem is sustaining a threat against Portland's talented starters and deep bench.
"They made a run, but we were able to continue putting points on the board," said Portland forward Brian Grant. "Bonzi [Wells] came in and did a good job. Steve Smith was in the game. So was Scottie Pippen.
"Guys have really been stepping up," Grant said.
The Jazz realize that's what they need to do, too. And fast.
"I don't know what's going on inside everyone's mind," said Utah center Olden Polynice. "I can only speak for myself and hope everyone's thinking the same way, but I think we've got to do whatever it takes to win at all costs."
Malone said the solution is simple: better shooting. So far, Portland has held the Jazz to 36 percent shooting in Game 1, 45 percent in Game 2 and 40 percent in Game 3.
"I think it's us," Malone said. "Teams have always gotten ready to play the Jazz. As long as I can remember, we've always shot the ball well. And right now, we're not shooting the ball well."