SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The rebuilding Utah Jazz appear to have a
good foundation so far.
Playing a season opener with neither John Stockton or Karl
Malone in the starting lineup for the first time in 17 years, the
Jazz rallied from a 13-point third quarter deficit and beat the
Portland Trail Blazers 99-92 Wednesday night.
"We haven't done nothing yet. We've got 81 more to go. But
we're going to surprise some people -- like we did with those guys
tonight," said Carlos Arroyo, who had 18 points and 13 assists in
his second career start.
Arroyo has the unenviable task of replacing Stockton, the NBA
career leader for assists and steals who retired last summer. If
Arroyo was uncomfortable taking over for an icon, it didn't show.
He calmly got the offense in sync in the third quarter, leading
up to a torrid final 12 minutes when the Jazz hit 13 of 16 shots.
"To tell you the truth, I wasn't nervous," said Arroyo, who
was 7-for-13 from the field. "I think this game let us know where
we are at right now and let people know we're capable of winning
First-round draft pick Sasha Pavlovic made his first four shots
and scored 14 in his NBA debut. Raja Bell, who signed with Utah as
a free agent this summer, also had 16 points, including a 3-pointer
that tied it and the go-ahead basket for a lead the Jazz never gave
Andrei Kirilenko finished with 16 points and seven rebounds and
started a Utah celebration with a one-handed dunk in the final
seconds before confetti fell from the rafters and the Jazz gathered
for high fives and hugs in the lane in front of their bench.
"I like to watch what those guys do after I tell them," Utah
coach Jerry Sloan said. "We're going to make mistakes and we did
make some mistakes, but we stayed in there."
Zach Randolph led Portland with 22 points, and Rasheed Wallace
scored 21 for the Trail Blazers, who outrebounded Utah 40-29 but
couldn't overcome the Jazz's shooting in the fourth quarter.
"I always know Jerry Sloan's teams are going to keep
battling," Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. "That's just what
they do. I don't know at what point we lost it. We had a timeout,
up six points, and then just played a terrible fourth quarter."
Utah shot 58 percent (42-for-73) in the game despite missing 11
of its first 14 attempts.
With Stockton retired after 19 seasons and Malone playing for
the Lakers after 18 years in Utah, the Jazz opened a new era with a
younger, smaller lineup. Three Jazz players were making their NBA
debut and, although the inexperience showed early, Utah pulled
together in the second half to win its first season opener since
Bell tied the game at 81 with a 3-pointer just before the shot
clock expired, then added a layup with 5:35 for the Jazz's first
lead since early in the game. The 3 by Bell opened a 10-4 run and
Utah never trailed again.
Olympic wrestling gold medalist Rulon Gardner sat courtside
and received a warm ovation when he was introduced early in the
third quarter. ... Portland guard Derek Anderson did not make the
trip because of back spasms. ... Ben Handlogten, a 29-year-old Utah
rookie who spent seven seasons playing overseas, made his NBA debut
with 2:16 left in the first quarter and scored his first points on
a two-handed dunk off a pass from Arroyo.