Despite all the thrills and chills provided in the final moments of Thursday night's loss to the Blazers, the Utah Jazz lost the game much earlier than that.
For the second night in a row, the Jazz fell victim to a run of Portland shots that stretched a close game into a runaway.In Tuesday's win, the Blazers went on a 21-3 run in the late third quarter and early fourth en route to a 117-97 rout. Guard Clyde Drexler contributed 10 points in that run. Even more important, he had a career playoff-high 15 rebounds.
By Thursday the Jazz had another problem. The quick surges were still there, and this time much of the help came not from the All-Star Drexler, but from forward Jerome Kersey. Kersey scored a career playoff-high 34 points, including 13 in the third quarter to lead the Blazers to a 23-point lead.
Utah had a one-point lead several times in the second period, but would never do so again. Drexler's back-to-back three-pointers put the Blazers ahead 43-37. That spurt opened the way for a 52-41 Blazer lead at the break.
Soon it would get larger. Leading 58-51, the Blazers then outscored the Jazz 12-4. The run's biggest play was a driving dunk by Kersey, in which he also drew a foul. His converted free throw put the Blazers ahead 65-53.
Utah's problems continued into the fourth quarter, when the Blazers scored the first seven points, stretching their lead to 94-71.
"The style of their team is to run and beat you in spurts. We just have to cut into those and shorten them," said Jazz guard John Stockton. "The things we did in the fourth quarter - intensity, execution and great hustle - are things we have to do from the start."
He continued, "We've got to control their spurts, not give them those 10-0 spurts. Maybe we can keep them down to 4-0 spurts and we'd be in good shape. It's tough to get down by 20 and come back in the fourth quarter."
While the Blazers had different heroes on different nights, the Jazz stars were as familiar as an old shoe. Karl Malone continued to lead the team, scoring 40 points and collecting 16 rebounds. Stockton added 20 points and 12 assists. And Jeff Malone contributed 24 points, making all eight free throws and eight of 14 shots.
But the Jazz's bench generated only a moderate amount of scoring. Thurl Bailey got eight points but missed five of seven field goal attempts. Delaney Rudd was 1-3 and Mike Brown 2-8 from the floor. Utah's bench was outscored 25-18 and outrebounded 9-8.
Again, Sloan bemoaned his team's lack of concentration. "We've got to concentrate for 48 minutes," said Sloan. "I don't want them just to give me five or 10 minutes at a time."
One who didn't appear to let up was Karl Malone, who made 20 of 22 free throws. He led the Jazz charge in the last quarter with 20 points.
"Everybody in the building thought it was over, including Portland," said Malone. "But now we're going home. I'm excited to get back. It'll (the late-game momentum) carry over until we get home, that's for sure."