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Charlotte drops Jazz for 3rd loss

The Utah Jazz lost their third game in their last four tries Wednesday night, but it's safe to say Jerry Sloan isn't panicking.

After all, it's just the exhibition season.Utah fell to the Charlotte Hornets, 109-99, at the Charlotte Coliseum to drop to 3-3 in the pre-season. Last year - the best in Jazz history - Utah also stood 3-3 after six exhibition games.

Sloan's lineup during crunch time Wednesday night showed that he is more interested in getting reserves some quality playing time during the exhibition season than in winning games. Only one starter - point guard Howard Eisley, who has been a starter for all of one week - was in the game during the final minutes of the tight battle. Eisley was joined by Antoine Carr, Greg Foster, Adam Keefe and Shandon Anderson.

Karl Malone, Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell and Greg Ostertag were glued to the bench - despite the fact that the Hornets were in striking distance. Charlotte's final 10-point victory margin was its largest lead of the second half.

The way his preseason is going, it's probably a good thing Malone sat out the fourth quarter.

The reigning NBA MVP has been getting banged up of late. Last week he sprained his right hand in practice. Wednesday night he left the court limping early in the first quarter after spraining a toe. He quickly returned to action but jammed a finger on his left hand late in the third quarter - after scoring a team-best 21 points. This time he didn't return.

Eisley, who has inherited the point guard position temporarily while John Stockton recovers from knee surgery, had his best scoring night. He pumped in 19 points, but dished out only an un-Stockton-like three assists, with five turnovers.

Anderson, Utah's second-year guard/forward, kept the game interesting in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his 17 points in the final 12 minutes.

It wasn't enough, however, as the Hornets staved off the Jazz by making most of their numerous free throws. Charlotte scored their first 15 points of the fourth quarter at the charity stripe. It's first field goal of the period, in fact, didn't come until the 5:13 mark - nearly seven minutes into the quarter.

Glen Rice led the victors with 23 points, while Anthony Mason scored 17, pulled down 11 boards and had six assists. Bobby Phills and Vlade Divac added 15 and 14 points, respectively.

Ostertag scored 11 points for the Jazz, while Carr added 10.

The Jazz traveled back to Utah late Wednesday night. They will be on the road again Friday, however, flying to Portland in preparation for a Saturday night preseason game against the Trail Blazers.

The exhibition season closes on Monday when the Jazz host Phoenix in the Delta Center. The regular season opener will be Halloween night against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Forum.

The regular season home opener will be Nov. 1 against the Denver Nuggets.