Karl Malone has a bit of an ally in town - in the form of today's enemy.
Portland Trail Blazer coach P.J. Carlesimo isn't as vocal as Malone about the long wait between Game 4 and today's Game 5, but ask Carlesimo about it, and he doesn't hesitate."I agree with them," Carlesimo says, referring to the Jazz. "It's a funny way to run a series," he said Saturday afternoon following the Blazers' practice at Westminster College.
"You know why it's been done - it's because of TV. We were one of the only two (series) that had to play four games in seven days," he says, and now the unusual layoff.
"It's not malicious about us, but, given a choice," says Carlesimo, "I didn't like playing four in seven, and I didn't like having a three-day rest, but I don't know that it's an advantage for either team.
"We both have some players that we play big minutes, so from that standpoint it's nice, but they don't need three days to get ready. Two would have been plenty," Carlesimo says.
The layoff could be a momentum-breaker for the Blazers, who won the last two.
Utahns in general seem to think the layoff favors Portland. They perceive that the Blazers' big weapon, 7-foot-3 Arvydas Sabonis, a 31-year-old averaging 26.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in the four games against the Jazz, seems to tire by the fourth quarters. The Wednesday-to-Sunday wait for Game 5 gave him time to rest.
He didn't get much. His wife, Ingrida, delivered the couple's third son Friday at 2:30 a.m.
in Portland's Good Samaritan Hospital. The 91/2-pound, 21-inch youngster is named Domantas.
Asked if the Blazers benefit from the longer time off because of the baby coming Friday, Carlesimo dryly said no, "I think Ingrida would have had it a day earlier if it was a two-day thing."
Blazer Buck Williams says, "I don't worry about Sabonis. He'll be ready to play."
The Blazers seem to be low-keying their approach, saying all the proper things. For all the success of himself and Sabonis against Malone and John Stockton, Rod Strickland simply compliments his opponents. "They're one of the best, if not the best, especially on that pick-and- roll. Stockton's the best at passing the ball, there's no question about that, and Malone's a great finisher. Me and Sabis, we're playing real well together," the point guard says. "When you're playing with somebody who has a feel for the game like that, it makes your job easier."
Strickland and Williams say today's game will likely be decided by everyday things done well, like getting to loose balls and rebounds and making free throws. "It's not a time to just put your hand out and hope the ball comes in your hand," says Strickland.
Says Williams, "That's going to be the difference. The team that will get the rebounds and take the loose balls off the floor is going to be the team to win."