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JAZZ-HAWKS MEETINGS HAVE GRADUALLY INTENSIFIED INTO UNFRIENDLY RIVALRY

SHARE JAZZ-HAWKS MEETINGS HAVE GRADUALLY INTENSIFIED INTO UNFRIENDLY RIVALRY

They only play twice a season, which is probably a good thing. If the Jazz and Atlanta Hawks went at each other any more frequently, would anybody be left standing?

They'll battle again tonight in the Omni as two big, tough teams that meet just often enough to keep things definitely unfriendly."It's a little bit of a rivalry," says Jazz center Mark Eaton.

They sure played two wild games last season. A review:

- Feb. 1, Salt Lake City: An early-evening power outage delays the game's start by an hour, but it's the ending that upsets the Jazz. Having returned from a solid win at Dallas, the Jazz find the Hawks waiting for them but stay

with Atlanta all the way.

Eric Leckner gives the Jazz a one-point lead, but referee Earl Strom calls a controversial foul on Karl Malone, stealing the ball. Reggie Theus' two free throws put the Hawks ahead and Jim Les, in the game after John Stockton fouled out, misses on a wild drive at the horn.

Cliff Levingston leads the Hawks with 21 points in a 94-93 win.

- March 5, Atlanta: On a Sunday afternoon, the Jazz play their best defense of the year and find unlikely scoring sources. Bobby Hansen (20) and Eaton (15) hit season highs, while Karl Malone manages only 14.

But Malone gives the Jazz the lead with two late free throws and they escape with an 85-83 win when Doc Rivers' last-second 3-pointer hits the front rim and goes up and over the basket. The Hawks score only 10 points in the third quarter and Dominique Wilkins finishes the two-game series 12 of 42 (.286) for 31 points.

***

The Jazz tried a season-low 15 free throws in that game at Atlanta _ and made 14. Who would believe that now?

After steadily improving for three seasons, the Jazz are struggling at the line through 12 games. The Jazz's free-throw rise has followed Malone's career, because he takes about one-third of their shots. Malone (.704) is down a little this season, but he's still ahead of the team average.

Free throws cost the Jazz an early-season game at Houston, and Bobby Hansen, a career 70-percent shooter, is 3 of 14.

"I've tried to ask myself what we're not doing in practice _ if anything, maybe we're (shooting) too much," says Coach Jerry Sloan. "Basically, it all boils down to an individual thing. Guys have to maintain concentration, so they don't lose the ability to step up there and knock 'em in."

The Jazz could also use a little work on stopping free throws. In the last two games, New Jersey and Indiana made 37 of 39 shots.

*****

Additional information)

Free-throw woes

Season Jazz Opponents

85-86 .716 .764

86-87 .726 .770

87-88 .750 .770

88-89 .770 .754

89-90 .684 .799