It's a good thing the Utah Jazz are motivated to secure homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
Otherwise, they might have lost by 50 Friday night.After (barely) getting away with playing no defense against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday at home, the Jazz tried the same thing against Portland at the Rose Garden.
The Trail Blazers are a little better than the second-year team from north of the border, however, if only because they have more than two guys who can shoot. The result: a 115-105 Jazz loss. The defeat puts them back into a tie with Seattle for the best record in the West. The Jazz's road record falls to 13-13, easily the worst road mark of any of the NBA's division-leading teams. Utah and Portland finish their season series 2-2, each team winning both games on its homecourt.
"We didn't have a lot of energy," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "They were much more alive than we were."
All the rumors about the imminent firing of Portland coach P.J. Carlesimo - and the joy that event reportedly would cause among the Blazer player ranks - may have been too much for the Jazz to overcome. The Blazers obviously were pumped-up about something - maybe a chance to push around one of the West's elite teams, maybe an opportunity to get back at a team that has plagued them in recent seasons, or maybe just to celebrate a day in which it only rained two or three times.
At least Sloan was back in typical form. After spending Thursday night's game at the Delta Center sitting back and letting his team "jackpot" - his term for failing to execute - Sloan was back to stalking the sidelines, getting a technical and even jawing with fans.
Unfortunately, Sloan couldn't play defense for his team. The Jazz spotted the Blazers 30 points in the first quarter and 34 in the second - season-highs for the first half and second period for Portland. You knew Utah was in troublewhen it shot 56.8 percent in the first half and still trailed by 11, 64-53.
"We just couldn't deal with them inside," Sloan said. "There wasn't much resistance in there."
The good news in the third quarter was that the Jazz held the Blazers to fewer than 30 points. The bad news was that they continued to fall behind. Portland made 11 of 17 shots in the period to take a 16-point lead into the final period.
Utah made a late attempt to turn this into a game, reeling off 11 straight points in the fourth quarter to pull within nine a couple of times. But they could get no closer, despite some stifling defense that they could have used in the first 36 minutes.
Malone finished with 30 points - his sixth straight game of 30 or more. He made 15 of 22 shots, but he did miss the one free throw he attempted. Sloan expressed mock surprise that Malone didn't get to the line more.
"This is unusual, for him to play 38 minutes and shoot only one free throw," the coach said. "That doesn't happen very often."
Malone got little help from the rest of Utah's starting team. Greg Ostertag had three points, four rebounds. Bryon Russell scored five points, Jeff Hornacek eight. John Stockton totaled 11 points, 11 assists, but his Blazer counterpart, Kenny Anderson, scored 30.
"He just kicked us about every way you can," Sloan said of Anderson.
The Jazz next play the Grizzlies on Sunday afternoon in Vancouver.