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NBA PLAYOFFS | NOTES

For Now, Lakers Must Bring in Mail Without Blount

May 04, 1997|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SALT LAKE CITY — The Lakers announced Saturday that Corie Blount will sit out at least the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz because of the sprained shoulder that also cost him the last two games against the Portland Trail Blazers, what could potentially be a significant loss to the lineup.

Blount was out of the rotation the first two games in the opening round, playing only four minutes in garbage time, before being injured during last Monday's practice. But Karl Malone wasn't in the opening round. He's in this one, so the Lakers could use all available big men, even with Elden Campbell playing well except for a lack of rebounds.

"We didn't need Corie particularly in the Portland series, but the matchups are different here," Coach Del Harris said of his one-time starting power forward. "We could have used him for the matchups in this series."

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Jerome Kersey spent the first-round series saying the Trail Blazers were just another opponent, even though he spent 11 years with the organization, and that playing in Portland in the postseason again had no emotional tug, even though it's still home.

Then came late Friday night. Kersey played a huge role in the Lakers' 95-91 victory that earned a 3-1 series win, grabbing a missed free throw by Eddie Jones that Campbell converted into a pair of free throws for an 85-85 tie with 1:55 remaining and 38 seconds later tipping in a miss by Shaquille O'Neal that became the 87-85 edge they would never relinquish.

"Actually, it seems a little weird now," Kersey said. "Being part of the big plays at the end of games, that's the kind of thing I did here."

As a Trail Blazer, though. He still does them in Portland--only as a Laker.

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The Lakers ended up outrebounding the Trail Blazers, 157-148, a significant victory within the victory considering Portland is annually one of the best on the boards. It was all the more unlikely since Campbell managed only 13 over the four games. The boost came from Kersey, who had 31 off the bench, second only to O'Neal among all players, and Eddie Jones, the shooting guard who grabbed 16. . . . That first-round matchup with Isaiah Rider that was supposed to cause so many problems for Jones? Rider made 16 of 43 shots (37.2%), had a terrible assist-to-turnover ratio of 17-12, scored 53 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Jones shot 59.3% (16 of 27), had 17 assists against five turnovers, scored 50 points, and got the 16 rebounds.

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