Sixteen hours after the Jazz had been waxed by 20 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, the Mailman was back and ready to go. "I can't wait until tomorrow," said Karl Malone.
Don't look now, but the Jazz are back to where they usually do their best work: climbing out of a hole."We've got to come back and see what we've got. We were a little disappointed in our effort," said Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan.
The Jazz and Blazers worked out Wednesday afternoon at the University of Portland, in preparation for Game 2 tonight, 8 p.m. (MDT). It is a contest that could go a long way in determining whether this is a very short series.
While both teams practiced, neither spent a lot of time in actual preparation. Most of this series' preparation appears to be mental. "There's not any surprises with these two teams," said Blazers' coach Rick Adelman.
What they showed on Tuesday was entirely predictable. The Jazz used their trump card - controlling the tempo - well enough to stay close through 21/2 quarters. But in a wild seven-minute flurry the Blazers went from a two-point lead to a 21-point advantage.
All-Star guard Clyde Drexler finished the game with 15 rebounds and 20 points. The Blazers out-rebounded the Jazz badly (55-41) and their bench easily outplayed the Jazz's.
Meanwhile, there was the strange case of the Mailman, who began the game making seven of his first 13 shots, then blanked out in 10 attempts in the third quarter. He finished with 21 points, but made only eight of 24 shots.
If these appear to be ominous statistics, they haven't yet affected Malone. "I have one bad game that's just one thing I block out," he said. "I can't wait until tomorrow. Whenever we have adversity we have our doubters. But I'm excited about it."
If there is any consolation for the Jazz in their whopping loss, it is that in 1988 they lost 108-96 at Memorial Coliseum in a first game, then came back to win three straight.
"If you're Portland," continued the Mailman, "you are feeling really good about yourself. For us, you look at yourself and feel good about some of the things you didn't do in the first game, that you know you can do. I think of all the shots I missed that I hit all year . . . We tried to get back all at once. They (Portland) want you to do that."
The Jazz continued to have troubles with the overwhelming bench strength of the Blazers. Though Mike Brown kept on his pace of late, so did Thurl Bailey. Brown continued a fine playoff series by scoring 13 points and taking in eight rebounds in six minutes. But Bailey's shooting fell to 11-31 in the playoffs (.355).
"Our bench is deeper in games than theirs and that's going to be a difference," said Drexler.
"We've struggled. That hasn't changed," said Sloan of his overall bench production. "We have to have every single guy compete with every bit of energy. I've seen that happen for a few games and I've been spoiled a little."
Speaking of spoiled, the Blazers' big concern may not be the Jazz, as much as themselves. After winning the first game by 20, they could have trouble taking their opponent seriously.
"There's no reason to get overconfident. That is a very good Utah team and nobody's going to take them lightly," said Drexler.
Least of all the Mailman. Said Adelman, "He's going to be a handful tomorrow."
PREGAME NOTES: Although the Jazz bench was outscored 36-22 in Game 1, Adelman wasn't ready to say whether depth will be the deciding factor. "I don't know," he said. "I'll tell you after." . . . Utah hasn't won a game in Portland since April 15, 1989 . . . The Jazz-Portland alltime playoff record stands at 3-2 for the Jazz . . . Utah's starters shot .391 from the floor in the series opener.