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NBA PLAYOFFS

Scouting Report

June 01, 1997|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER

* About the Jazz: John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek are a terrific backcourt tandem. They just aren't big. This is a problem when you're playing the Bulls, because the size of Michael Jordan and Ron Harper creates problems. The counter is the precision of the entire Jazz squad--46% from the field is a good showing for the playoffs, especially when Karl Malone, of all people, is the one keeping the average down because of a string of missed easy shots. That won't continue, will it?

* About the Bulls: The status of Scottie Pippen and his tender foot could become a major factor if it forces him out of games or greatly limits his impact. Not only would the Bulls lose a key player, Toni Kukoc would have to assume a greater role at a time when he's in no position to do so. The 34.1% for the playoffs and 22.2% in the conference finals against the Miami Heat say so. Two others are struggling with their shots--Pippen at 41.6% and Ron Harper at 41.9%.

THE MATCHUPS

* GUARDS: Stockton torched Houston's Matt Maloney in the conference finals, averaging 20.5 points and 10.3 assists and shooting 53.8% in the six games. But if he starts to roll against Harper, Stockton could quickly get Jordan instead. Hornacek is lost in the shadow of Malone and Stockton, but he is averaging 15.6 points in the playoffs. Jordan is averaging 30.5.

* FORWARDS: If Charles Barkley had so much trouble containing his frustrations in fighting through Utah's trademark cross screens, what does that say for technical-foul magnet Dennis Rodman? Meanwhile, Malone gets the luxury of not having to spend nearly the energy on defense with Rodman as he did with Barkley.

* CENTER: Greg Ostertag had a poor showing against the Clippers but has improved to where he is averaging nearly a full blocked shot more per game than in the regular season, despite playing about one minute less and spending the last 11 games against Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal. He's not the only one thinking this series is a break. Chicago's Luc Longley just had to deal with Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo.

* INTANGIBLES: In Jordan, the Jazz may have to contend with the greatest player in the game feeling he has something to prove. Malone, after all, was voted league MVP, so Jordan might use this stage for his response. The Bulls have enough finals experience to fill three rosters and the Jazz has none, but that doesn't figure to make a huge difference. Stockton, Malone & Co. aren't fazed by hype, so they may find the extra attention more of a minor annoyance than an increase in pressure.

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THE SCHEDULE

* Today--At Chicago: 4:30 p.m.

* Wednesday--At Chicago: 6 p.m.

* Friday--At Utah: 6 p.m.

* June 8--At Utah: 4:30 p.m.

* June 11--At Utah: 6 p.m.-x

* June 13--At Chicago: 6 p.m.-x

* June 15--At Chicago: 4:30 p.m.-x

x-if necessary

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BULL STARTERS

No. 91, Dennis Rodman, Forward

No. 33, Scottie Pippen, Forward

No. 13, Luc Longley, Center

No. 23, Michael Jordan, Guard

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JAZZ STARTERS

No. 33, Karl Malone, Forward

No. 3, Byron Russell, Forward

No. 00, Greg Ostertag, Center

No. 14, Jeff Hornacek, Guard

No. 12, John Stockton, Guard

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