There are many reasons not to want to play a playoff series in Los Angeles - the air, the traffic, the crime, the threat of a volcanic eruption - but none so compelling as the condition of the Los Angeles Clippers' homecourt, the Sports Arena.

A grimy relic in a bad neighborhood, the Sports Arena is, quite simply, a dump."It's probably the worst in the league at this time," said Jazz broadcaster Ron Boone. "It doesn't have that basketball atmosphere you like to see. It's too spread out."

Not to mention too empty and too dingy.

"I guess there's some kind of aura about the place, where nobody really wants to play there," said Jazz center Greg Foster.

"Aura" is a nice way of saying the place smells bad.

"One thing for sure," Foster added, "I've never experienced a big crowd in the Sports Arena."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said the Sports Arena hasn't always been a dive.

"I thought it was beautiful, the first time I played in it," he said. "It was a state-of-the-art building when it was first built. After 20 years, it's become obsolete."

(Actually, that's probably closer to 40 years.)

Despite the dilapidated condition of the building, however, the Jazz say they won't let it bother them.

"It's just a gym to me, a gym where my opponent plays," said Antoine Carr. "I wouldn't care if it was just my mom watching, or just their moms watching."

"You get to the playoffs, it shouldn't matter where you play," said Jazz assistant coach Gordon Chiesa.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: The Jazz had a short but spirited workout Sunday before embarking for Los Angeles. Sloan continues to say he's not seen what he wants from his team.

"It's very obvious that there's some things we're not doing a very good job with," he said. "I see a lot of things we need to improve on."

Namely?

"Our defense and our execution. Those go hand in hand. We've set very poor screens and run the floor poorly. One time in the third quarter (Saturday), after a made basket, they beat us down the floor. That's unacceptable.

"And how many of these" - he mimed throwing a length-of-the-court pass - "have you seen? We're trying to run fast breaks without the ball.

"Fundamentally, they're knocking us all over the place. They're beating us all over the floor."

Hate to hear what he'd have to say if the Jazz were down two games.

OFF THEIR GAMES: Two Jazz players who've struggled so far are center Greg Ostertag and guard Jeff Hornacek.

Ostertag has made one of five shots for two points, with nine rebounds and five blocked shots in two games; Hornacek has made five of 18 shots for 23 points.

Ostertag continues to say he doesn't know why he's stumbled, as did Sloan.

"I don't know what the deal is," the coach said after practice Sunday. "We're going to talk about it here in a minute. There's no reason for him not to be able to run the floor."

Hornacek, who has compensated for his lack of scoring somewhat with 11 rebounds and nine assists, said of his mini-shooting slump, "It's just me. I've had some open ones. Maybe I've been driving too much instead of taking the little runner shots. Maybe I've been too open."

Hornacek did offer an opinion as to why the Jazz offense has stuttered.

"When we play good teams, we run the offense through Karl almost every time," he said. "When we play teams we're supposed to beat, we don't throw it to Karl as much, and we tend to settle for the first open shot."

GRUMPY KARL: Malone is in typical us-against-the-world playoff form.

After Saturday's six-point victory he said, "Everybody's walking around with their head down like we lost one. Everyone wants to dissect the Jazz. I guess you so-called professionals are looking for blowouts every time."

After saying he still didn't feel he'd found a groove, Malone was asked how much of that was due to the Clippers.

"None," he said. "It ain't the Clippers. I've seen all kinds of stuff before. It's me."