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IN `KNEED' - BENOIT TAKES TIME TO MEND

Jazz forward David Benoit played Game 5 of the Portland series after suffering a bruised knee in practice, then missed Game 1 of the Spurs series with the same injury. So what happened?

"Playing in a game, I think I stressed it out a little more," he said.Benoit didn't practice Wednesday. He's taking anti-inflammatory medication and, asked when he expects to play next, said, "Maybe when we get back to Salt Lake."

He added: "I just have to ask myself the question, am I going to go out there and help the team, or am I going to go out there and hurt the team? I don't want to sit out, because this is the playoffs. Getting a win (Tuesday) made it a lot easier to take."

Asked about Benoit's status, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan tersely said, "I can't worry about David Benoit. He wasn't there. My job is to put whoever is out there and I expect him to play."

The guy Sloan put out there was Chris Morris, who had his best game of the postseason. The coach wasn't entirely satisfied, however.

"I thought Chris did a good job," Sloan said. "I thought he was active, but he got a little bit tired in the first half. That shouldn't happen. He's 29 years old. No one pays him to be tired."

FICKLE FANS: The hot topic around San Antonio Wednesday was the poor crowd turnout for Game 1 - 15,112, the lowest for a playoff game since the team moved to the Alamodome two years ago, by nearly 1,500 - and the booing the fans unleashed on the Spurs in the first quarter.

At least it was a hot topic among the media - the Spurs, for the most part, politely declined to get involved.

"Can I stay out of that one?" forward Sean Elliott asked.

"I wasn't even listening (to the boos), to be honest," said center David Robinson. "We had a job to do."

Guard Avery Johnson did point out that the fans in Phoenix gave their Suns a standing ovation after Game 4, though they'd just lost their first-round series to the Spurs.

Utah's Karl Malone, who has expressed disappointment with fickle fans (and media) before, did offer an opinion, however.

"It's sort of amazing," he said. "In the playoffs, you win a big game and everyone goes hog wild. You lose one, and it's `Boo.' "

HE'S BACK: Adam Keefe finally played appreciable postseason minutes - 21 - after not appearing much in either of two previous playoff series as a Jazzman. He responded by making three of seven shots for eight points, with three rebounds, two turnovers and five fouls.

"I thought I did a lot of things wrong," he said. "My timing was definitely off. I felt a little out of sync, out of rhythm."

Keefe was feeling pretty good coming into the game, though. On Monday he signed a five-year contract extension with the Jazz that will pay him in the neighborhood of $12-15 million.

"Obviously it's exciting," he said of the new deal. "It's great to be rewarded. I enjoy being in this community."

Keefe probably could have gotten more money per year with a deal for fewer years, but he said, "I've always been a long-term, security guy. That was the issue."

He added, somewhat jokingly, "The whole thing happened so quickly it's a shame I have to pay my agent and they have to pay their guy. It was fairly cut and dried."

SHORT STUFF: Miscellaneous quotes from Wednesday's interview session:

- Hill, on Sloan: "He's a down-home, honest, straightforward, professional guy. He's one of my favorites in the league. I just have great respect for him."

- Malone, on players like Bryon Russell and Greg Ostertag, who didn't play that much during the playoffs: "Maybe it's sort of a blessing in disguise they didn't get to play much in the regular season. They're sort of hungry."