Jazz coach Jerry Sloan sounded a decidedly different tone Thursday in talking about his team as decided underdogs heading to Los Angeles with nothing to lose in a first-round series against the top-seeded Lakers.
"Contrary to the way it might look, there's no pressure," Sloan said. "You don't have to play basketball and think the whole world is coming down on top of you because you're supposed to be the winner.
"The pressure is they have to beat us. Nothing could be any more devastating to them than to have us beat them. So the pressure lies strictly on their back, if they accept the pressure, but they're a veteran team that probably won't accept pressure."
Sloan received national attention for his comments after Tuesday's loss to the Lakers in which he described the Jazz's prospects as "pretty bleak" in the series, saying his team was "a little dent in the road" with the Lakers driving toward a championship.
"I was listening to what everybody told me," Sloan said. "You could look around, that's all everybody said is, 'How are you going to beat these guys? It's virtually impossible.'"
Only three No. 8 seeds ever have pulled first-round upsets in NBA history, but the Jazz will draw inspiration from Golden State's stunner over a 67-win Dallas team in 2007.
"You could see that mushroom after the first game," Sloan said. "Once that happens, that's what makes this business so exciting and interesting. ... I've seen a lot of crazy things transpire in this league since I've been in it."
Neither Mehmet Okur (strained right hamstring) nor C.J. Miles (dislocated left index finger) went through practice Thursday, although both did cardio work. Matt Harpring also didn't practice, suffering from a nasal infection.
Okur said he didn't come close to playing Tuesday against the Lakers and still is bothered by pain. He continues to receive treatment and was hopeful he could play in Sunday's series opener if things improve. "So far I feel about the same," Okur said.
Miles, meanwhile, has seen some of the swelling in his hand decrease. "I feel like I should be able to play," said Miles, who has three more days to heal and was eager to test his hand in practice on the court.
Fueling further Carlos Boozer speculation, the New York Daily News wrote Thursday: "The Jazz is desperate to rid itself of Carlos Boozer, who counts the days until he can leave Salt Lake City." ... Sloan said he was undecided about recalling Kosta Koufos from the NBA Development League's Utah Flash for Sunday's game with Miles and/or Okur possibly unable to play.