Work in Sports
PORTLAND, Oregon (Ticker) -- No matter where he plays, Scottie Pippen continues to beat the Utah Jazz in the postseason.
Pippen scored nine of his 20 points in a big fourth quarter, when the Portland Trail Blazers finally got a boost from their bench and pulled away for a 94-75 victory in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Pippen was acquired from Houston in a blockbuster offseason deal to provide championship experience for the Trail Blazers. He won six titles with Chicago, including a pair against Utah in 1997 and 1998 when the star forward confounded the Jazz on both ends.
After admittedly coasting during the season, Pippen has turned it on in the playoffs, keying a pair of wins against Minnesota in the first round. It was more of the same today as he took advantage of his matchup with the smaller Jeff Hornacek, who had trouble with him in both Finals.
"It took us three quarters before we could really get a good feel for this team," Pippen said. "In the final quarter, we had a better feel of their plays and execution."
"They've got size at every position," Hornacek admitted. "They made some good post-up shots and turnarounds."
The Jazz were without foul-plagued John Stockton and injured Karl Malone for the entire second quarter but stayed in it with their bench, which outscored Portland's vaunted reserves, 22-7, in the first half.
"Our first group looked like they wanted to hang out," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We struggled, and that's why I went for the second unit."
Utah trailed by only four points entering the final period but ran into a wave of Blazers reserves, led by Greg Anthony.
"It's nothing out of the ordinary, just the competitive juices flowing," Anthony said. "My job is to go out and be disruptive defensively and look for opportunities wherever they present themselves."
The backup point guard scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter, two shy of Utah's total. Reserve forward Brian Grant added four points and several hustle plays as Portland's bench held a 16-4 edge over Utah's in the final period.
"I think a lot of it was Brian Grant," Anthony said. "I think Brian set the tone for us in the fourth, the way he was rebounding the basketball. ... That gives you momentum, that gives you rhythm and it also deflates your opponent. So that was the key in the game."
Arvydas Sabonis had 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Blazers, who had six players score in double figures and stayed unbeaten at home in the postseason. Game Two is Tuesday at Portland.
One of the most durable players in NBA history, Malone suffered a sprained left MCL in a collision with teammate Armen Gilliam while sitting on the bench late in the second quarter. He limped to the locker room but returned in the second half and finished with 22 points but did not talk about the injury after the game.
"He didn't look like he was playing hurt," Grant said. "He put his head down and went harder to the basket and that's when he is very effective."
Stockton had 10 points and six assists in just 23 minutes and Hornacek was limited to seven points. Utah shot just 37 percent (28-of-76) from the field and was outscored 34-16 at the foul line.
The Jazz trailed 65-60 in the final minute of the third quarter and blew a chance to get closer. Stockton was fouled shooting a 3-pointer but missed 2-of-3 from the line. Gilliam went to the line but missed a pair.
"You could tell we weren't ready. We were hanging on people and we were fouling," Sloan said. "We gave up some 40 free throws (41) and when we get it within four points, we missed four in a row at our free-throw line. That just shows that we were hanging around."
"I thought we missed our chance in the third quarter by missing some free throws that would have tied the score," Stockton said.
That hurt when Grant and Anthony opened the final period with two free throws apiece. Utah got no closer than six points, the last time at 71-65 with 8:11 remaining.
Pippen got inside of Hornacek for a rebound and a follow shot, then forced an illegal defense call by posting Hornacek. Two free throws by Sabonis and an inside hoop by Grant extended the lead to 77-65 with 6:28 left.
Between baskets by Utah, Grant ran down a rebound and saved it to Pippen, who drilled a 3-pointer. Anthony made two foul shots and a transition layup to make it 84-69 with 4:42 to go.
Malone hit a jumper, but Grant got another offensive rebound that led to a 3-pointer by Anthony that basically sealed it with 3:48 left. To that point, Portland's bench held a 13-0 lead in the period.
Damon Stoudamire scored 14 points and Steve Smith and Rasheed Wallace added 12 apiece for Portland, which shot just 38 percent (28-of-73) but committed only seven turnovers.
"We talked about that it might come down to who gets loose balls, who contests shots well and if we can take care of the ball well," Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We did that today."
Stoudamire took charge with 10 points and two assists in the first period as Portland opened a 23-15 lead. He did most of his damage after Stockton sat down with his second foul with 6:16 remaining.
"I just wanted to go out and try to go at John," Stoudamire said. "I know he is a big part of their team and I just wanted to try and make him work for the whole series."
Meanwhile, Malone was struggling, missing four of his first five shots. He sat down with 1:08 left in the first quarter and did not return in the first half as Sloan went with his second unit in the second quarter.
However, that did not prevent Malone from getting hurt. Gilliam tried to track down a rebound in the corner and his momentum carried him into Malone. He stepped on Malone's foot and their knees collided. Malone screamed in pain and limped to the locker room moments later.
Stockton also sat out the entire second quarter and the bench did a nice job, outscoring Portland's vaunted reserves by 15 points in the first half. But smaller guards Howard Eisley and Jacque Vaughn had trouble containing the 6-8 Smith, who scored nine points in the period as Portland opened a 44-34 halftime lead.
"I think it surprised us," Stoudamire said. "You have to give their bench credit. Sloan went with them for a long period of time and they were able to keep Utah in the game."