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Utah 99, Portland 87
Posted: Friday December 28, 2001 01:34 AM
Utah Jazz
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Portland Trail Blazers
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PORTLAND, Oregon (Ticker) -- It took 30 games, but the Utah Jazz finally have reached .500.

Karl Malone scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half as the Jazz overcame a disastrous first quarter to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers, 99-87, for their third straight victory.

John Stockton contributed 20 points and 11 assists for Utah (15-15), which has rebounded from a 6-11 start to win nine of its last 13 contests.

The Jazz appeared to be in for a long night Thursday as they managed just 11 points in the first period and trailed, 25-6, at one point.

But Portland fell apart in the second quarter, when it shot just 19 percent (3-of-16) from the field and registered only eight points.

"It wasn't a very bright outlook, the way we started off the ballgame," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "It looked like we were going to get blown away, but fortunately are guys plugged away and they made some mistakes and let us get back in the ballgame."

Utah scored 27 points in the second quarter, turning a 27-11 deficit after the first period into a 38-35 lead at halftime.

"We've won a cpuple games in a row," Malone said. "We're back to .500. Who knows now. I basically had two quarters off, so I had a little energy in the fourth period."

The Jazz got their offense into high gear in the second half, recording 62 points to slowly pull away. Stockton credited Utah's bench, which outscored Portland's reserves, 56-16.

Byron Russell scored 18 points off the bench for the Jazz, while rookie Andrei Kirilenko chipped in 14 and John Crotty added 10.

"Those guys were terrific," Stockton said. "We were getting our tails given to us in the first quarter, but the reserves played well and got us back in it. They did all the work in the first half. In the second half, I think everybody's intensity and energy picked up."

Damon Stoudamire scored 22 points and Derek Anderson 15 for the Blazers, who have lost three in a row for the first time this season.

"I can't explain what happened," Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. "I know we had a lot of energy at the start, but we didn't get it for four quarters. That's not to say our guys gave up. They didn't. But we've got to find a way to get our confidence up and that's my job."

The Jazz overcome the dreadful start to shoot 49 percent (37-of-76) from the field while holding Portland to just 39 percent (26-of-66).

"I think we were all kind of shell-shocked (in the first quarter)," Crotty said. "We knew they would give us a chance to get back in it, but it was amazing how quickly we actually did it."

Stoudamire scored nine points in the first eight minutes, helping the Blazers race to a 23-4 lead. But he went to the bench with 3:57 left, and Portland scored just four points in the remainder of the quarter.

"I'm not saying the reason we lost was because I came out," Stoudamire said. "They (Jazz) quit running their offense and went to a passing game and they did what we are used to seeing. They closed out the game."

Utah scored the first 18 points of the second quarter, taking a 29-27 lead on Greg Ostertag's two free throws with 5:54 left in the half.

Portland tied it on Zach Randolph's two free throws, but the Jazz reeled off another eight points in a row, building a 37-29 lead on Crotty's two foul shots with 4:26 left in the quarter.

"That was probably the strangest game I've ever played in during my career, and this was just the first half," Crotty said.

"I always believe you have a chance to win," Sloan added. "I don't care what the situation is. I'm too hard-headed, I guess."