Get to point, Jazz doesn't have a shot

June 08, 1998|By Ken Rosenthal

CHICAGO -- Utah coach Jerry Sloan stared at the stat sheet.

"This is actually the score? This is the final?" he asked last night after Utah's 96-54 loss to Chicago. "I thought it was 196."

Nah, Jerry, that will be the Bulls' total in Game 4.

We knew the Mailman didn't deliver on Sunday, but we still thought you might find good Jazz in Chicago.

Not on this night, and maybe not in this series.

Let's see the Jazz break the 20-point barrier for a single quarter, and then we can talk about it posing a serious challenge to the Bulls.

Game 3, and the Jazz didn't score enough to beat Princeton. Game 3, and it produced the NBA's lowest point total since the inception of the shot clock in 1954.

The Bulls were so devastating at the United Center, the question is no longer whether they will win their sixth NBA title.

No, the question is whether the Jazz will win another game.

The Bulls' 42-point margin of victory was the largest in NBA Finals history -- the 1978 Washington Bullets set the previous mark, defeating Seattle by 35.

Karl Malone hit his first six shots, and what did it matter? His teammates missed 17 of their first 18.

The Jazz scored 14 points in the first quarter, 17 in the second, 14 in the third and nine -- nine! -- in the fourth.

... Em

barrassed, fellas?

"I don't know if we even have to answer that one," John Stockton said. "I think that's pretty obvious."

Stockton is one of the top point guards in NBA history, and the Bulls chased him into Lake Michigan, where he drowned with five turnovers and two points.

Malone? He took six shots in the first eight minutes, five in the final 40. At least he finished with 22 points. No other Utah player scored more than eight.

"They ate us alive," Sloan said. "We couldn't get into our offense, couldn't get up the floor. I don't know if I've ever seen a team that quick defensively."

So much for those who said the Bulls were through after their seven-game triumph over Indiana, then their overtime loss to Utah in Game 1.

Only the two Jerrys -- Reinsdorf and Krause -- would nit-pick them now.

The Jazz took the Bulls to six games in last year's Finals, beat them in both regular-season meetings this year, swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals.

And last night, Michael Jordan sat on the bench during a third-quarter timeout, joking with Scottie Pippen about icing his knees in the final period.

Which he then did.

Jordan, Pippen and Toni Kukoc combined for 50 points -- four fewer than Utah, even though Jordan indeed sat the entire fourth quarter.

Jud Buechler, Dickey Simpkins, Bill Wennington -- those were the Bulls on the court in the final minutes, and they actually ran up the score.

Can the Jazz recover?

"I think it would be real easy, if you're a competitor," Sloan said. "They were shooting three-pointers at the end. You see how they can bury you, and if that wouldn't get you ready to play, I don't know what would.

"I would think it would be very easy to play the next game," Sloan continued. "I'm not sure my team will do that, though. I'm only speaking for myself."

So coach, how do you really feel about your team?

Sloan had warned the Jazz to play harder, and they responded by shooting 30 percent, committing 26 turnovers and getting out-rebounded, 50-38.

At least they talked tough.

"If you're not ready to play after the things that went on out there, you shouldn't be in this profession," Malone said, referring to the Bulls' fourth-quarter frolics.

No team has won Games 3, 4 and 5 at home since the current NBA Finals format was adopted 15 years ago, though the 1990 Pistons and '91 Bulls did it on the road.

Well, there's always a first time.

You will hear plenty of talk in the next two days about how the Jazz rebounded from an 86-64 loss at San Antonio in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Please.

They're facing Jordan now, not David Robinson -- Jordan, Pippen, Kukoc, Ron Harper and Co., the meanest Chicagoans since Mayor Daley.

One sequence at the end of the first half defined the Bulls' relentlessness, and none of their major stars was even involved.

Dennis Rodman hit a 15-foot jumper with 6.7 seconds left, giving Chicago a 16-point lead. Off to the locker room, right? Not a chance.

Scott Burrell stole the inbounds pass and missed a shot. Harper then stripped the rebound from Malone, a player three inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.

And still, the Bulls weren't through.

Harper missed a 19-footer, and Burrell fought Stockton for the rebound, drawing his third foul. Two free throws later, the Bulls led at intermission, 49-31.

Former Bulls assistant Johnny Bach called it "the unleashing of the Dobermans." And Jordan, of course, bares the biggest fangs of all.

Utah's Greg Ostertag practically strangled him on a drive at the start of the second half, and Jordan still powered past the 7-foot-2, 280-pound center to make a reverse layup, draw a foul and complete a three-point play.

"We're not afraid to attack," Jordan said. "We're in a situation where we either kill or be killed, and I like the way we attack, instead of letting people attack us."

Unlike the Jazz, they attacked last night.

?3 In the Jordan era, they've never, ever stopped.

Pub Date: 6/08/98

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