Work in Sports
Dunleavy: Pippen's playing time isn't an issue
Posted: Monday May 15, 2000 11:12 PM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- If Scottie Pippen is stewing about sitting out a crucial stretch of Game 4 against the Utah Jazz, it's news to Portland Trail Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy.
Pippen didn't re-enter Sunday's game in Salt Lake City until there was 2:11 left. Without him, the Blazers had cut an eight-point deficit to 81-80, but by the time he came in, it was 87-80. Utah held on to win 88-85, avoiding its first-ever sweep in a seven-game series and setting up Game 5 at the Rose Garden on Tuesday.
Pippen, who has just 15 points on 6-for-22 shooting his past three games after scoring 20 points in Game 1, was asked by a reporter whether he was surprised to be on the bench that long. "About as surprised as you are," he said.
Dunleavy was taken aback by questions about the matter Monday. He said he had talked about it after the game Sunday, and that Pippen "basically understood."
"I said to him, as far as late in the game is concerned, I went back to Steve [Smith] at 6:51. The normal rotation is to come back with Scottie in the next dead ball," Dunleavy said. "What happened was, in the next dead ball, we were on a run. It was 81-80, and I kind of just stayed with the guys that were on the floor at that time."
Pippen wasn't around to discuss the issue. He was the only player besides Greg Anthony, whose wife was expected to give birth to their first child, to not show up for the Blazers' mandatory pre-practice interview session.
The Blazers still are irritated over the officiating in Game 4, as well as the postgame trash-talking by Jazz center Olden Polynice. But they should be in a better mood, considering they have beaten Utah 13 straight times at home in the playoffs.
"There's nothing like being at home, being in your own bed, being around your family," Portland forward Brian Grant said. "You don't have to worry about the fans or anything flying onto the court. We've got to close this series out, because we don't want to go back to Utah."
Utah's win postponed the inevitable breakup of the Karl Malone-John Stockton-Jeff Hornacek trio. On Tuesday, the Jazz will again be motivated by pride more than hope.
"If we win, we keep playing. If we lose, we go home," Malone said. "Sometimes when you're in that position, you've got to leave it all out on the floor. The game in Portland is the same thing. You've got to have pride."
Without Grant, the Blazers would have gotten blown out Sunday. In the second half, he had 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 12 rebounds. But the rest of the Blazers shot just 34 percent. The team also missed 10 of 25 free throws and committed 16 turnovers, including two especially costly ones on consecutive possessions in the final four minutes.
"We made so many mistakes, it didn't matter what we shot," Dunleavy said.
The difference for Utah was the sudden, improbable energy shown by Polynice, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds and held Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis to six points. But Polynice's contributions went beyond the stats.
He pumped up the Jazz and the crowd by screaming and flailing his arms, and by confronting Pippen in the first quarter. Nothing much happened, but Pippen clearly was annoyed, shoving Polynice away.
"I don't care how many rings somebody has, they're not going to talk to me any kind of way," said Polynice, who took more shots at Pippen after the game. "He's still living off the six rings," Polynice said. "But there was a guy named Michael who did that."
Grant doesn't expect the Blazers to lose their concentration again.
"I know Scottie is focused on one thing, and that's winning, and I don't think he'll let Olden Polynice or anybody take him out of that," he said.
The Blazers couldn't wait to get out of Utah, and they're counting on a fast start Tuesday to keep them from returning there for Game 6. The longer the Jazz hang around, the more pressure the Blazers will endure.
"We want to try to jump on them early, and maybe plant that seed that they can't beat us in Portland," Smith said.