Portland forward Buck Williams, after guarding the Jazz's Karl Malone in Tuesday's series opener, isn't taking credit for Malone's uncharacteristic low-scoring (21-point) game that featured 8-of-24 shooting from the field.

"Everybody knows Karl Malone knows how to get easy baskets," said Williams. "I know he'll come back strong Thursday night. You can't count on stopping him every time. All I can do is make him work as much as possible."Added Williams, who is predicting a physical series: "I hope both teams are going to be using a lot of ice, not just us."

Added Portland guard Danny Ainge about Karl Malone's 33 percent shooting in the opener: "Karl didn't shoot well, but he had a lot of easy shots. He just didn't hit them. That's scary."

The reason the Jazz and Blazers practiced Wednesday at the University of Portland, rather than the Memorial Coliseum, was due to a Whitney Houston concert scheduled Wednesday night at the Coliseum.

That was no problem to the Blazers' Clyde Drexler - a confirmed Houston fan. Drexler reportedly spent considerable time securing tickets to see the reigning queen of pop.

Asked by a reporter about Houston's act - which reputedly doesn't include a lot of dancing - Drexler replied, "She can just stand there and I'm just gonna look at her."

There's no doubt the Jazz need Thurl Bailey's scoring, and so far they haven't been getting it. Bailey, who averaged 12.4 points a game and shot .458 from the floor during the regular season, is well below those numbers so far in the playoffs.

Through five games, Bailey has made just .355 of his field goal attempts and scored 5.8 points a game - a fact not lost on Coach Jerry Sloan.

"We need his ability to score," said Sloan. "But I try not to put too much presure on him. Players have to work it out themselves."

Portland and Utah rank one-two in the NBA this season in games decided by six points or fewer. The Blazers were 16-6 and the Jazz 16-7 during the regular season. They also ranked two-three (Utah was second) in holding third-quarter leads, behind only the Lakers.

The teams are two of only six that have been in the playoffs seven straight seasons. By extending the span to eight seasons, the Blazers drop off the list.

The other perennial playoff teams since 1984 are the Lakers, Milwaukee, Boston and Detroit.

For the first time in his professional career, the Trail Blazers' Danny Ainge is not the first person on the roster - alphabetically.

"I don't remember not being first before," said Ainge, who ranks second alphabetically on the Blazers' roster behind rookie Alaa Abdelnaby.

But it's not an alltime first. "I played with a guy named Mike Adams in high school," said Ainge.

Bill Walton, the star of Portland's only NBA championship (in 1977), is working as an analyst with Portland television station KOIN during the playoffs. He told The Oregonian that he believes the Trail Blazers will beat the Jazz.

"Karl Malone will get his points," said Walton, "and John Stockton will be solid enough, but Buck Williams and Terry Porter will be effective enough defensively and will subjugate their offense, and they have a stronger supporting cast." Subjugate?

PLAYOFF QUOTE OF THE DAY: Portland Coach Rick Adelman on the NBA's decision to schedule the Jazz-Blazers in back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday: "If Boston doesn't have to, why should we?"