Lack Of Confidence Joins Woes Of Jazz Even Utah's Coach Says He Isn't Sure His Team Will Be Ready For Tonight's Game Against The Bulls.

Posted: June 10, 1998

CHICAGO — With a 42-point loss in the NBA Finals in their rearview mirror, the Utah Jazz have noticed a few disheartening developments, including: how embarrassing Sunday's defeat was, how the Chicago Bulls have been gloating, and how everyone appears to be writing their eulogy for the second straight year.

``We know people are counting us out,'' forward Antoine Carr said. ``With the way we played on Sunday, who could blame them?''

Carr's candor came as no surprise yesterday as Utah prepared for tonight's Game 4 at the United Center. After being blown out, 96-54, in Game 3, the Jazz not only fell behind by two games to one in the best-of-seven series but also lost the confidence of their coach.

``It will be real easy to get up for the next game if you're a competitor,'' coach Jerry Sloan said Sunday. ``I'm not sure my team will do it, though . . . speaking for myself.''

At the moment, the players don't sound too sure themselves about coming back from the most lopsided loss in Finals history.

Karl Malone, the star forward, talked about getting motivated because the Jazz were forced to watch the Bulls' third-string players take jump shots with a 40-point lead.

Point guard John Stockton talked about getting back to basics, believing that typical Utah basketball would be enough against the defending world champions, who have clearly shown that it won't be.

Stockton's backup, Howard Eisley, said that setting picks and screens and avoiding turnovers were all the Jazz needed to do to take the series back to Utah. And forward Bryon Russell suggested that playing hard was the key.

No one mentioned winning.

``We gave effort in the first quarter,'' Russell said. ``After that, it was like we weren't even around. We just gave nothing.''

True indeed. Utah shot 30 percent, hitting 21 of 70 shots, even though Malone was 8 for 11. The Jazz also committed 26 turnovers. Worse, Michael Jordan had 24 points, while Toni Kukoc, who had 16, and Scottie Pippen, who had 10, were having a bench party, resting the final 12 minutes of the game.

``Basically, we enjoyed ourselves,'' said Pippen, who was quoted after Game 3 as telling the Jazz to ``get ready for the WNBA season.''

Even now, with Dennis Rodman providing plenty of opportunity for the Bulls to feel distracted, they seem unfazed.

Rodman skipped practice, hung up on coach Phil Jackson afterward, and then showed up for a World Championship Wrestling event the same night.

``We haven't lost our focus one bit,'' Pippen said. ``If we can create distance between them and us, we can put ourselves a step closer . . . and put them in a panic situation. That's what championship teams do.''

For the Jazz to become champions, they have to find a way to steal either Game 4 or 5 in Chicago, which would send the series back to Utah for Games 6 and 7.

``We've got to bring all we've got this time,'' Russell said. ``Then maybe we'll be giving ourselves a real chance.''

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