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Kragthorpe: Jazz on their own

Published May 13, 2007 4:16 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

BERKELEY, Calif. - The day after a resounding playoff loss to Golden State, the Jazz found themselves in downtown Berkeley in search of solutions Saturday.

They were far removed from the madness of Oracle Arena in Oakland, where 20,000-plus fans were rejoicing in their misery the previous night. That's not to say nothing unusual was surrounding them.

As they practiced in Berkeley High's gym, the sixth annual Pagan Festival & Parade was in full swing on the street in front of the school, complete with costumed witches, goat-driven carriages and booths representing a school of wizardry, a seminary for pagan ministry education, a Tarot to Go reading and registration for next weekend's Faerie Masque Ball.

Nothing, unfortunately, offering suggestions about stopping the Warriors' offense.

So the Jazz are on their own again tonight, as they attempt to recover from Friday's 125-105 defeat that was worse than the score indicated and every bit as in-their-face as the San Francisco Chronicle's photo of Golden State's Baron Davis planting his forearm into Andrei Kirilenko's nose while taking off for a ferocious dunk late in the game.

What will the Jazz do about it in tonight's Game 4? Good question.

There's no history with this team, participating in the playoffs for the first time in 23 years

without John Stockton or Karl Malone. That's precisely what has made this postseason so fascinating, watching them respond to one challenge after another: being questioned about Kirilenko's unhappiness, losing the first two games to Houston, blowing a chance to win a critical Game 5 on the road, supporting Derek Fisher's family health issues, almost crumbling in Game 6 at home, losing a huge lead and recovering in Game 7 to win the series and then making critical plays and dealing with Fisher's absence and Dee Brown's frightening neck injury to overcome the Warriors in the first two games of this series.

Quite a 10-game adventure, huh? Now comes the real work: Dealing with a confident, energized, revitalized Golden State team that fully believes it should be ahead in this series - and still can win it.

But there's nothing Jazz coach Jerry Sloan loves more than being beaten down, at least in terms of the opportunity to respond.

"You find out who you are as a person," he said. "You can sit and pout or you can pick yourself up and go after it."

Sloan's teams - again, with the Stockton/Malone era providing the only available data - have generally bounced back well. In six playoff games after losing by 20 or more points, they won twice, came close three times and once were blown out again.

"I guarantee, we'll play better in Game 4," said forward Carlos Boozer.

That's basically how this stuff works. If Friday's game had lasted another 48 minutes, the Warriors would have won by 40 points. But there's usually little spillover from one game to the next in the playoffs, certainly not as much as you might think.

"Even in the game itself, one quarter doesn't carry over to the next quarter," said Jazz assistant coach Phil Johnson. "It's almost play-by-play."

Just the same, there's no telling if the Jazz can find answers by tonight, now that the Warriors have found themselves. If the bounce-back trend of the old days is encouraging and so is the Jazz's resilience so far in these playoffs, there's still no guide to how they will respond to Friday's disaster.

They endured a Saturday morning film session, specially edited to show the worst of their troubles. "It was tough," guard Deron Williams said. "We knew it wasn't good. . . . We've got to let that one go."

Otherwise, the Jazz have impressed their coaches and and everybody else the last three weeks, especially the way their first-time playoff contestants have embraced the opportunity and played consistently. Williams and Boozer have thrived, although Williams' foul trouble completely short-circuited Game 3 for the Jazz.

"I love the playoffs, man," Boozer said. "I'm looking forward to this the rest of my career. I'm going to tell you, it's very demanding. . . . It's competitive. I like it. I've been waiting to get to the playoffs for five years, and I'm not going to let the opportunity pass me by."

Undoubtedly, the Jazz will play better tonight. How much better? That's anybody's guess. "We have a lot of unknowns," Johnson said as the Jazz left the Berkeley High gym with no answers forthcoming until tonight, because the team bus went right past the Tarot to Go booth without stopping.


* KURT KRAGTHORPE can be reached at kkragthorpe@sltrib.com. To write a letter about this or any sports topic, send an e-mail to sportseditor@sltrib.com.




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