After blowing a 23-point lead the night before and nearly coming into town tied 1-1, the Portland Trailblazers certainly didn't seem like a worried bunch Friday afternoon at the Salt Palace.
They supposedly had a 1:30 practice, but the players nonchalantly wandered in from a nearby hotel and joked with each other as they shot baskets and took their turns talking to the various assembled media. Finally at 2:30, the Blazers and coach Rick Adelman huddled together and proceeded through a casual practice more like a day-of-the-game shootaround. And it was an open practice, unlike the Phoenix Suns a week earlier.The Blazers didn't seem too affected by the scare the Jazz put into them on Thursday night.
"You never feel good if you have a team down by 20 points and you let them back in the game," said Porland's Clyde Drexler, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds Thursday. "But the bottom line is, we're up 2-0."
"It's human nature," said ex-BYU star Danny Ainge. "There's always a tendency to play freer when you're down by 20 and more conservative and tighter when you're up by 20. The only team I've ever been on that didn't do that was Sacramento and that's because we never had a big lead to blow."
Drexler sees some positive things about squandering the big lead. "It could have been a wake-up call for our team. Also, what it did was force them to use their starters the whole game trying to catch up."
Indeed, John Stockton played 45 minutes and Karl Malone 43, while the deeper Blazers had no one play more than 40 minutes.
Ainge said the Blazers' attitude won't be any different because of the two-point win rather than another 20-point win. "This team has enough respect for the Utah Jazz for what they did to Phoenix and what they've done in the past. Their backs are to the wall and they'll be coming out like lions."
He believes the Jazz will play more like the Blazers' style in the next two games, today and Sunday.
"I think they'll go uptempo more in Games 3 and 4 because they seem to do that more at home," said Ainge. "Our objective will be to keep them in the half-court game. It's going to be a real challenge because they have one of the best home records in the NBA."
Adelman said his team "didn't play very smart" in the final minutes of Thursday's game and said, "everything went wrong for us." Although some folks figure the Blazers have the advantage over the Jazz by playing back-to-back games because of their depth, Adelman isn't happy about it.
"I don't understand why two teams have to do that," he said. "It really doesn't make any difference because you do it all the time during the regular season. But if one team gets a minor injury, it's tough to come back the next day and play.
"When you get this far, it should be the same for everybody," he continued. "I don't seem Boston and Detroit playing back-to-back games. It doesn't make sense to me."
Nevertheless, he's pleased with how the series is progressing against the Jazz.
"I like our position right now and the way our team is responding," said Adelman.