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RESTED JAZZ FACE NUGGETS AT DELTA CENTER

It has been a rough week for the Jazz, which could be bad news to the Denver Nuggets. After losing two games last weekend and having Coach Jerry Sloan walk out on their Tuesday practice, the Jazz return to action tonight in the Delta Center against the Nuggets. It is likely the Jazz will be trying hard to get back in Sloan's good graces.

The Jazz, 43-23, are just one game behind last year's pace after 66 games. But Sloan was not happy with the way his team played on the crucial two-game trip to San Antonio and Houston over the weekend. Consequently, he walked out on the team's practice on Tuesday."I have to admit, those two games really bothered me," said Sloan.

"Usually I handle things very well. I have to admit it got to me a little bit. I was aggravated a little bit. I let my emotions slip a little bit more than ordinary."

Sloan's anger may have produced the hoped-for results. The Jazz went through what he termed "a good practice" Wednesday morning in preparation for the game against the Nuggets. This will be the first of five straight games at home, where the Jazz have a 28-3 record.

Asked if he is concerned that the Jazz may relax upon returning home, Sloan said, "I'm concerned that they may want to relax all the time. But most important is how consistent a team can be over an 82-game schedule."

As an afterthought, Sloan added, "I don't ever want anyone to think I don't care because we lose. I'm very concerned when we lose."

If Sloan is upset over losing, he should try seeing things through Denver Coach Paul Westhead's eyes; the Nuggets are 22-43. However, things are looking up recently after an 18-point win over Sacramento Tuesday and decent showings in road losses to Miami and Cleveland.

The Nuggets had a team meeting in Miami and reportedly set a goal to go 12-8 during their final 20 games. While that is unlikely, things could be improving. After hitting the "rookie wall" recently, Dikembe Mutombo collected 11 rebounds to get into double figures for the first time in the past nine games. Veteran Walter Davis is off the injured list after missing 30 games with a torn Achilles tendon.

"Mutombo works extremely hard," said Sloan. "He hurt his back when we were over there last time (a 112-88 Jazz rout on March 8) and wasn't the same player as when we met them the first time (a 121-96 Jazz win on Nov. 22 in Salt Lake). I expect the same kind of game as when we had them over here last time."

The Nuggets beat the Jazz 115-111 on Jan. 23 in Denver.