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Trail Blazers 94, Jazz 75

Posted: Monday, May 08, 2000

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Someday Karl Malone and John Stockton will remember a time when they were young men, and when they could beat the Portland Trail Blazers on their home court.

Those days are fading further into the distance, and each loss here threatens to push the Utah Jazz greats closer to retirement.

``Our guys didn't come to play,'' Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said after Sunday's 94-75 Game 1 loss to the Blazers, Utah's 12th straight playoff defeat in Portland. ``I'll tell you right now, we didn't come to play, and this series will be over real quick if they're going to accept that.''

Scottie Pippen scored nine of his 20 points over the final nine minutes as the Blazers held Utah to just one basket in the first 5:46.

``That's what we consider the backbone of our team: playing defense and shutting teams' offense down,'' Pippen said. ``It took us three quarters before we could really get a good feel for this team, but in the fourth quarter, our defense took over.''

Greg Anthony added 12 points in the final period, and Damon Stoudamire finished with 14 points. Arvydas Sabonis had 14 rebounds and Brian Grant added 10.

Utah's last playoff win here was on April 30, 1988, in Game 2 of the first round.

While Portland had four days off after its first-round series, the Jazz were playing on less than two days rest after struggling past Seattle in Game 5 on Friday night, and their fatigue showed.

Utah missed nine of its first 10 shots in the fourth quarter and shot 33 percent for the period, slightly worse than the 37 percent it shot for the game. But Sloan wouldn't have any excuses.

``They had 24 hours to sleep. That's their own fault if they can't get the rest and get ready to play. We had too many days off last week. Now we get a little rest. Who cares? I don't care, because they get paid to play, and they're supposed to.''

The Blazers know not to overestimate the value of winning the opening game; they lost Game 1 to the Jazz in last year's conference semifinals, then regrouped to win in a grueling six games.

``This is a seven-game series, not a one-game series,'' Malone said. ``We need to make some adjustments and come back and win. We need more intensity.''

Malone led the Jazz with 22 points despite straining a ligament in his left knee on a freak play late in the second quarter. Malone was sitting on the bench when teammate Armen Gilliam dived for a rebound and crashed into Malone's chair. Malone came out limping slightly in the third quarter, but played the rest of the way.

Pippen, who averaged 6.8 points in four regular-season games against the Jazz, could once again hobble Malone's title chances. Pippen and Michael Jordan helped the Chicago Bulls beat the Jazz in the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998.

When asked whether these kinds of games were the reason Pippen was acquired by the Blazers from Houston, Malone snapped: ``I don't want to hear that,'' followed by an expletive. ``I don't care about that. End of interview. I'm done here.''

The Blazers led 65-61 to start the fourth quarter, but Pippen's aggressiveness helped put the game away.

His short turnaround jumper extended the lead to 71-63 with 8:36 remaining. Pippen hit a 3-pointer to make it 80-67, and Anthony sealed it with two free throws, a layup and 3-pointer for an 87-71 lead with 3:48 to go.

``Greg and the guys that came in the fourth quarter, their defensive energy was terrific, so we stayed with them and rode them out,'' Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said.

The Blazers led 44-34 at halftime and pushed the lead to 13 early in the third, but the Jazz chipped away.

After Malone cleared out with his left arm and hit a layup, Rasheed Wallace started screaming at the officials and had to be restrained by teammates. Dunleavy quickly subbed Grant for him, but before Wallace could leave the court, he said something else and was hit with a technical.

Stockton made the technical free throw and Malone hit his free throw to cut the lead to 63-58 with 1:29 left. Utah trimmed it to four by the end of the quarter, but missed four straight free throws over the last 35 seconds -- two by Stockton.

``The effort was there, but we just didn't get it done,'' Stockton said. ``We were down by only four entering the fourth, but we really gave them an opportunity at the end of the third.''

Notes: Thirty seconds of silence were observed before the game in honor of Blazers assistant coach Bill Musselman, who died Friday, a month after being diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. ... Malone slipped to second in playoff scoring average at 29.2. The Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal is at 30.4. ... The Blazers had a tremendous advantage at the line, hitting 26 of 27 free throws after making just eight of their first 14. Utah got to the line just 23 times, hitting 16. ... Portland is 7-0 in seven-game series when winning the first game.



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