NBA Notebook: Sloan thinks Jazz making progress
The NBA notebook …
SALT LAKE CITY ó The Utah Jazz are still not quite ready to re-conquer the West.
Coach Jerry Sloan feels they’re getting closer, though.
Utah was knocked out of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals on Friday, one round earlier than last spring but considerably ahead of where the team was just a few years ago.
“You’d like to take that giant step, but this is who we are and you kind of have to do it in stages,” Sloan said Saturday as the Jazz cleaned out their lockers. “This basketball team here has a good future if they work at it and put their heart into it. And they’ve done a lot of that.”
Sloan’s 20th season coaching the Jazz ended with a 108-105 loss to the Lakers in Game 6. Utah trailed badly through the first three quarters, then pulled a complete turnaround in the fourth and pushed the Lakers until the final seconds.
LOS ANGELES ó The Lakers are an NBA-best 8-2 in the playoffs in the rugged West. They are 6-0 at home, where they haven’t lost since March 28.
And they just got through handing the Jazz. It was Utah’s only sixth home-court loss in 47 games this season, including the playoffs.
“It feels great,” Kobe Bryant said Friday night after scoring 12 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter of a 108-105 victory over the Jazz. “It’s been a great journey and we want to keep it rolling.”
NEW ORLEANS ó A hard shot to David West’s ailing back finished him for the fourth quarter of the Hornets’ blowout loss at San Antonio in Game 6.
Game 7 on Monday night is another matter entirely.
One day of rest proved enough for the Hornets’ All-Star forward to get back on the court for Saturday’s practice, working on his game-changing array of mid-range jumpers, fadeaways and post-up moves.
That was a relief to teammates, who were understandably concerned when West was face-down on the court in San Antonio on Thursday night, his left arm bent awkwardly over his lower back, after a hard screen set from behind by Spurs veteran Robert Horry.
“If you come to practice and one of your best players is hurt, and you see him out here getting some shots up, that’s the sign of a warrior,” Hornets guard Morris Peterson said. “That’s a sign of somebody who is putting the team in front of himself. That’s the kind of guy he is. It did feel good to see him out there. It gave guys more confidence that he’s going to play Monday.”