Jazz Deal Blazers First Loss


That's more like it, Karl.

In his first game against Portland since a horrible effort in a playoff loss that ended Utah's 1998-99 season, Karl Malone scored 24 points and had eight rebounds as the Jazz beat the Trail Blazers 92-87 on Tuesday night.

One of Malone's best chances for an NBA title slipped away last spring after he shot 3-for-16 in the decisive sixth game of a second-round playoff loss to the swaggering Blazers.

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  • This time, after the Jazz handed Portland its first loss in five games this season, Malone said it was another step toward his No. 1 goal.

    "I just want one thing, and that is to win a championship," he said. "I feel in my heart and in my body that I can do this as long as I don't get hurt. I can play at this level for another three years."

    Malone shot 6-of-11 from the field and made 12 of 14 free throws. The Jazz held the Blazers to 22 percent shooting (5-of-22) in the fourth quarter after Portland shot 73 percent (11-of-15) to take a 69-68 lead after the third.

    "We'll just have to bounce back," said Portland's Scottie Pippen, who scored nine points after being held to four in the first half. "We realized coming in this was going to be a tough game."

    Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy said it came down to missed opportunities.

    "We probably had, in the second half alone, five advantage breaks that we didn't convert," Dunleavy said. "We made mistakes on the defensive end to give up some easy baskets."

    Bryon Russell scored 19 points off the bench and helped the Jazz clamp down defensively in the fourth quarter after Portland's Damon Stoudamire had scored 13 of his 19 points in the third to put the Blazers ahead 69-68.

    "Down the stretch, we executed well," Russell said. "In the past games, we didn't. We turned the all over and costly mistakes cost us a few games."

    Utah pulled away from a 72-72 tie with a 9-0 run over a 4:55 span early in the fourth quarter. Howard Eisley sparked the burst with two baskets and it was 77-72 with 8:25 to play after Jeff Hornacek made three free throws.

    Bonzi Wells was called for a reach on Hornacek, then received a technical for arguing. It was a sequence typical of an emotional game between teams expected to contend again in the Western Conference.

    Steve Smith led Portland with 26 points while Arvydas Sabonis had 11 points and nine rebounds.

    Hornacek scored 14 points and John Stockton had 14 points and nine assists for the Jazz. Utah coach Jerry Sloan was ejected in the second quarter after being called for two technical fouls less than 35 seconds apart.

    Referee Joe Forte called the first against Sloan with 1:07 before halftime after Pippen blocked a shot by Russell, who fell in front of the Jazz bench. Sloan raced onto the floor and went straight for Forte.

    The second came after Malone was fouled with 28.1 seconds left. Sloan yelled at referee Mark Wunderlich, who immediately blew his whistle and told Sloan to leave the arena.

    The crowd of 19,538 booed as the officials left the floor at the break, and Wunderlich responded by raising his arms and pumping his hands as he disappeared into the tunnel.

    For all the excitement, it was tied 43-43 at halftime.

    It was the second straight night that Utah won with rookie shooting guard Scott Padgett in the starting lineup. Much of the talk afterward focused on how Sloan has tinkered with the Jazz to fit in several new players.

    "People need to realize is that this is the first time in a long time they have made the kind of moves they have made," Malone said. "We have four or five guys who we are trying to get into the mix."

    The Blazers, who started the season 4-0 after winning all eight of their exhibition games, shot 41 percent (30-of-73) from the field. Coming to Salt Lake City, Portland had been shooting an NBA-best 54 percent.

    "We beat ourselves tonight," Pippen said. "We had many opportunities to build a lead on this team. We had some fast-break opportunities we didn't convert. If we just get half of those, we win."

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