2001 NBA Finals

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Mental preparation

Malone goes hunting as Jazz get ready for Game 4

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Posted: Monday April 30, 2001 7:56 PM

DALLAS (AP) -- After 161 playoff games, Karl Malone pretty much knows what to expect in Game 4 of Utah's first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks.

So rather than attend an optional practice Monday, the Mailman went hunting.

Malone and fellow starters Bryon Russell and Olden Polynice were the only Jazz players missing from the workout. The players and coaches who did show up didn't seem to mind the absences.

"You do what you have to do to get ready," Danny Manning said.

Utah leads the series 2-1 going into Game 4 Tuesday night. A victory would send them to the second round and avoid a Game 5 Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

The Mavericks came out of their full-scale practice Monday talking about being more confident than ever following their victory Saturday in Game 3.

"Once you win one, you know you can do it," said Steve Nash, who hit the winning shot in Dallas' first postseason victory in 13 years. "It changes a lot for you. Hopefully that will be the confidence and the adjustment we need to win the series."

The Jazz have historically had trouble closing out five-game series. They've had 2-0 leads in six previous series and five of them went the distance.

The accumulation of games and years on Utah players has forced coach Jerry Sloan to ease their off-day load.

He realizes he can't push 39-year-old John Stockton and the 37-year-old Malone the way he used to, especially when they're averaging more minutes in this series than they did in the regular season. He also recognizes that they probably don't need the extra work.

"The last couple, three years, I've tried to cut back on their practices because I think it's helped them more," Sloan said. "I don't know that I'm going to teach them anything about how to play basketball in a practice that I would make it mandatory.

"John and Karl have seen it all. I don't know if there could be anything that they could see that they can't adjust to without having had an hour and a half practice or a 20-minute talk."

Most of those who showed up said they came out of boredom.

"I don't want to be sitting around the hotel all day, doing nothing," Donyell Marshall said. "Plus, I needed to get my blood flowing, work on my shot and some of the things I've been struggling with."

"You get tired of watching TV," Manning said. "The movies on Spectravision don't change. The room-service menu doesn't change. The four walls get smaller and smaller after a while."

The Jazz remained in Dallas after losing Game 3 Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the series, the Mavericks flew home for two nights when they had a similar schedule.

"I don't think it really makes a difference," Marshall said. "You can sit here, be bored and relax or go back home and deal with your family and friends and have a lot of distractions. It can work both ways."

The only reserve who missed the workout was John Starks, who is recovering from testicular surgery. Sloan said the shooting guard was expected to arrive Monday night.

"He's got to get here before we'll know whether or not he can play," Sloan said.

Related information
Mavs coach: Jazz manipulate refs, abuse rules
Utah's Starks still recovering, will miss Game 3
Mavs top Jazz to net first playoff win since 1988
Mavericks get tough, keep series going
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