SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Jazz didn't need Jerry Sloan to
tell them what they needed to do after going into halftime down 10
points to Portland.
Playing their first of seven straight games without the
suspended coach, Utah rallied after a dismal start and held the
Trail Blazers to five field goals in the second half of a 95-71 win
"We were a step and a half slow in the first half and they were
hitting everything," said Karl Malone, who had 20 points and 11
rebounds to lead the Jazz. "But then all of a sudden we really got
after it on the defensive end and got aggressive."
Matt Harpring finished with 21 points, including nine in the
third quarter as the Jazz ended Portland's five-game winning
streak. John Stockton added 13 points and seven assists for the
Jazz, who won hours after learning Sloan was suspended for pushing
an official during Tuesday's win at Sacramento.
Several Jazz players felt Sloan's punishment was excessive
because they feel he was provoked.
"I think it's ridiculous," Malone said. "You know Coach
Sloan. If you have any fight in you, if you're a man, if you're a
competitor and somebody puts you in the corner, you feel like
you've been challenged. It's unfortunate, but I am sure he wants us
to just play hard."
Assistant Phil Johnson, who took over for Sloan on Tuesday, got
his second win in as many nights. Johnson has been on Sloan's staff
for 15 years, so the Jazz didn't have much of a different look
"We have some guys that want to win -- bottom line. And when
that happens, you don't really have to say a lot," said Johnson,
who had two stints as coach of the Kings before joining Sloan.
'"This might be a team you are battling for a spot in the playoffs,
just as last night. Really, that is what this is about."
It didn't look good for Johnson early after Utah shot just 35
percent (16-for-46) in the first half. But after halftime the Jazz
started hitting their shots and tightened up on defense. After
Derek Anderson opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers,
Portland went just 3-for-31 from the field the rest of the way.
The Trail Blazers also committed 10 of their 16 turnovers in the
"Our energy level was down. We tried to push the ball up the
court, get some quick shots, but we couldn't do that," Portland
coach Maurice Cheeks said. "They ran the ball back at us and they
got a lot of easy baskets."
"We had nothing left in our tank. I know I didn't have anything
in my tank," Wells said. "I wish I could have given Mo Cheeks a
better effort, but it was just a tough one for us today."
Both teams had a game the night before and got off to poor
starts, but Portland shook it off while taking a 47-37 lead at
The Blazers looked good early in the third quarter on Anderson's
consecutive 3-pointers, but they couldn't shake the Jazz. Stockton
answered one of the shots with a three-point play and Harpring the
other with a 3-pointer that started a 13-point Jazz run. Harpring
tied it at 53 on a layup off a no-look pass from Stockton to finish
a three-on-two break, then Calbert Cheaney gave the Jazz the lead
with another short jumper.
The Jazz outscored the Trail Blazers 29-15 in the quarter and
led 66-62 entering the fourth. Utah didn't let up and opened the
final period on a 14-3 run, capped by Tony Massenburg's thundering
dunk that put the Jazz up 80-65 with 5:39 left to play.
The Jazz were 25-for-38 from the floor in the second half.
Sloan can return to the bench when the Jazz host the Bulls
on Feb. 14. ... Portland was playing its final game of Rasheed
Wallace's seven-game suspension. Wallace, suspended Jan. 18 for a
confrontation with an official after a game, is eligible to return
Friday night when the Blazers play the Bulls. ... After losing
three straight, the Jazz have won two in a row. ... Both teams
opened the game 4-for-15 from the floor.