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Utah Jazz passing up any sweep bait

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It is a relatively tight-lipped Jazz team that enters tonight's playoff Game 3, largely due to the fact many fans and media already consider this series over.

Two road wins and now the Jazz are back home, where they lose as often as the Globetrotters. Hence, the subject of a sweep is bound to arise.

But the Jazz aren't taking the bait.

"I don't ever think anything like that. I think every game at a time, so I'm just trying to focus on (today's) game," said center Mehmet Okur.

"I think the pressure is on us," added guard Deron Williams.


Considering the Jazz have a chance to blow through this series like Kenny G through his warm-up scales raises the possibility of a few days off. Going undefeated in a series can also provide a Jordanesque-sized dose of confidence.

Nothing says don't-mess-with-us like a sweep.

Yet sometimes there seems too much of a good thing. The 1998 Jazz gutted Los Angeles in four games, earning a trip to the NBA Finals. But since Chicago was grinding through a seven-game series with Indiana, the Jazz got a 10-day layoff. Ten days! There are geologic periods shorter than that.

The Jazz went on to lose 4-2 in the NBA Finals.

Can sweeping a series be bad?

"I think everybody asked that question after we swept the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and went into the Finals with 10 days off," said former Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek. "That's probably too long."

The league has tried to avoid long layoffs ever since. But either way, it's probably not smart to fool around. If the Jazz can erase Houston quickly, they should.

"Especially in the early rounds, you want to get them done as quickly as you can," added Hornacek. "You never know what's going to happen. The Lakers might sweep their series, and if that is the next team you're going to play, you want to have the next couple of days to prepare. That's the attitude you've got to have."

So if the Jazz are smart, they'll pummel the Rockets tonight, leaving them dispirited and dejected. Squash them like cockroaches in a bathtub. Then all that will be left is the cleanup on Saturday.

Besides, it never hurts to let the other teams know you're coming.

It's not like sweeps happen every year for the Jazz. They've had a grand total of two.

They beat the Clippers 3-0 in a five-game series in 1997 and the Lakers in '98. Other than that, someone has always given them at least momentary pause.

Sweeps can be highly effective in a scorched-earth sort of way. As a military leader, Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Count Dracula, is said to have tortured tens of thousands, burned fields and leveled villages. Same with Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.

Make a strong statement and let your reputation take it from there.

A lot of great teams lived by that philosophy. The 1997 Bulls lost just two playoff games, en route to their Finals battle with the Jazz. They also swept New Jersey in the first round the next year.

The '89 Pistons swept Boston in the first round, Milwaukee in the second and the Lakers in the Finals. The '87 Lakers swept Denver and Seattle en route to the title. The '86 Celtics lost just one playoff game before beating Houston in the Finals. And the '83 Sixers lost just one game before being crowned champs.

It's not just a matter of intimidation, though. As Hornacek noted, it's a matter of practicality.

"Anything can happen," he said. "You can get an injury to a guy if you're playing a six- or seven-game series and there's more opportunity to get hurt."

He continued, "I think veteran guys realized on those great teams that you really should try to finish things up. But it's not an easy thing to do."

Burning and pillaging is never as easy as it sounds.

E-mail: rock@desnews.com