SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Portland and Utah used to be a matchup of
perennial playoff teams.
This season, the Trail Blazers and Jazz are just hoping finish
ahead of anybody.
The Jazz beat the struggling Blazers 90-79 Tuesday night, ending
a three-game losing streak and drawing within a game of Portland in
the Northwest Division. And not even better odds in the NBA draft
lottery are worth being labeled a last-place team.
"The games are important," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "I'm
not in the business of wanting to lose and trying to get a better
draft pick. I really don't care about the draft pick."
Portland brought just nine players on the one-game road trip
because of injuries, but still trimmed a 23-point lead to single
digits in the final minute to give the Jazz a scare.
"It was an ugly win," Harpring said.
Joel Przybilla had 13 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks for
Portland, but his point total tied for the team high. Shareef
Abdur-Rahim, who leads Portland with a 17-point scoring average,
finished with just six points in 30 minutes.
The Blazers lost their fifth in a row and are just 2-16 since
Kevin Pritchard took over as interim coach after Maurice Cheeks was
fired. The loss was their 10th straight on the road.
Przybilla and Sebastian Telfair were the only Portland starters
to play in the fourth quarter.
"To me it was about energy," Pritchard said. "I can live with
losses because at times it's more important for us to look long
term and try to get better every day. But when we don't have energy
and effort, that's my fault because I'm not getting it out of them.
And I'm going to find a way to get it out of them."
Utah took advantage of Portland's lack of depth and experience
by holding the Blazers to just 10 points in the third quarter while
taking a 17-point lead. Utah pushed the lead to 23 in the fourth
quarter, then let it fall to single digits in the last 2 minutes
before pulling away again.
"They're playing harder, but they have to learn to play even
harder," Sloan said. "This is not a casual business. When we play
casual you see how ineffective we are."
That was apparent in the fourth quarter, but against such a
short-handed lineup for Portland it didn't end up costing Utah this
Darius Miles, third for the Blazers in scoring at 12.4 points
per game, didn't dress for the second straight game because of a
sore left shoulder. Derek Anderson (back spasms) and Theo Ratliff
(shoulder) also didn't make the trip, leaving Portland with just
Travis Outlaw and Telfair scored apiece 13 for Portland, but
Telfair had just two points in the second half and the Blazers
couldn't make up for 19 turnovers.
The two teams had 41 straight years of playoff appearances
between them until both streaks ended last season, and both are in
danger of finishing with the worst record in the Western Conference
"It's hard when you try to gout out there and play well every
night and your season's just went down a hill from the beginning,"
said Ruben Patterson, who was fighting the flu and had just two
points for Portland.
Utah led 46-40 at halftime, then opened the third quarter with a
15-3 surge. Gordan Giricek scored all nine of his points in the
third quarter and the Jazz held the Blazers to 4-for-15 shooting.
Portland hasn't beaten a Western Conference team on the
road since opening the season with a 78-75 victory at Golden State
-- a streak of 21 in a row. ... The Jazz (23-50) and Blazers (24-49)
play again in Portland on April 17. ... Mehmet Okur added 11 points
and six rebounds for Utah. ... Damon Stoudamire finished with 11
points for Portland.