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Tested Lakers Take On Rested Jazz

Game 1: Utah had an intense week of practice while L.A. was knocking out Portland in four games.


SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz spent the better part of the last week practicing, a lengthy respite earned because Clippers had been disposed of Monday.

Only it wasn't such a respite. Scrimmages nearly led to fights because players had so much energy for the playoffs and only each other to use it on, and Coach Jerry Sloan was at his ornery best, the kind of trademark intense approach where he could have stuck his hand in a fire and the flames would have jumped back in fear.

And then here came the Lakers to town early Saturday morning, hours after beating the Trail Blazers in Portland and still wading in the accomplishment. All the way to a team meeting at the hotel, then continuing at the late-afternoon practice at the Delta Center, where most players shot around while Elden Campbell sat on a basket standard and played with a power drill left behind.

"They haven't landed," Coach Del Harris said. "Hopefully by tomorrow, they will."

Or else they may land hard. Tomorrow has become today and the Lakers get the chance to find out.

Do they have energy in reserve for anything more than appreciating what would have been considered the minimum--winning a first-round series--with only one day off to prepare for the daunting Jazz in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals?

Will the Jazz turn out to be more rusty than rested because of the long layoff?

Will the Jazz just be happy to get fresh meat to attack?

Will Campbell buy a power drill for himself?

"Sometimes it's good when teams are just coming off a pretty tough series because they're in the mind-set to play," superstar Jazz forward Karl Malone said, trying to assess the timing. "And sometimes it's not so good when you have four or five or six days off to get ready for a team like that [the Lakers] because when a steamroller gets going, you can't shut it down.

"We've had some of the hardest practices I've ever had since I've been here, including training camp, so hopefully that kind of simulated what it's going to be like."

The steamrollers are counting on it, even with the poor concentration level of Saturday. Laker players insist there won't be any fatigue come tipoff today at the Delta Center, and there won't be any fear of a team that beat them, sometimes dominated them, in three of four regular-season contests.

They know the Trail Blazers beat them three of four too, and look what happened. They also know even if the fresh legs of the Jazz can get a jump on the series today, it beats the option. That is, better to be fatigued in Salt Lake City than up against it with a deciding Game 5 against the Trail Blazers at the Forum.

"I think emotion can carry us," Nick Van Exel said. "I think we'll be factors."

He meant for the whole series.

"We're just one of the teams in their way, I guess," Van Exel said. "And they're one of the teams in our way. We both feel like we're going to the finals."

Added Harris: "I don't think there's going to be any particular fatigue factor here. If we had to play [Saturday] night, there might be. We even bought a break by not playing at noon. The 3:30 [local time] even helps.

"But I don't see why we should be fatigued. The guys are obviously in shape because we've been winning fourth quarters a lot of the time."

All the time against the Trail Blazers, by an average of 11.5 points in the four games. That the fourth game was Friday night, some 41 hours before tipoff against the team that only finished No. 1 in the conference by seven games, is the concern.

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