by Greg Schaffer

How do you turn from the Goat of the NBA to a Star in a matter of 24 hours? How can 1,440 minutes alter sports talk radio conversations from a stab at your very core to praises in your behalf? Ask the Utah Jazz!

Blowout Win?
On Tuesday night, February 3rd, the 30-14 Utah Jazz went to The Pond in Anaheim, California to face the 10-37 LA Clippers. Many people saw this as another blowout win for the surging Jazz. How wrong they were! Reserve guard James Robinson lit-up the Jazz with a season-high 25 points, which included 5-9 from “3 point land,” to lead the Clippers to a 111-102 victory. This win helped stop the Clippers 8 game losing streak. The Jazz were able to hold the lead once, early in the first quarter, 20-19. It only lasted for 39 seconds. From that point on the Clippers never looked back. In the third quarter they lead by as many as 21 points. The Jazz were able to cut the lead to 4 points early in the fourth but never threatened again.

I’m sure the flight back to Salt Lake City that night was less than enjoyable for the Jazz players. Coach Jerry Sloan had few kind words for his club. In a post-game interview Sloan said, “It was obvious from the get-go that they didn’t want to play. They, (the Clippers), kicked us all over the building on the boards. They, (the Jazz), are killing this game playing like that.” “We were in another world. I guess these guys are still out in Disneyland,” He added. They had to host the World Champion Chicago Bulls in just a few hours. How do you recover from an unexpected loss like this and be ready to face Michael Jordan and company?

The lax play from the Clipper’s game revealed it’s ugly head during the first quarter of play against the Bulls. Chicago came out in the first quarter and burned the nets shooting 52 percent from the floor and held the Jazz to a measly 33 percent. The Jazz were only able to muster 13 points up in the quarter which was equal to Michael Jordan’s performance during the same time. Along with Jordan’s 13 points, Ron Harper poured in 10 to help the Bulls to a 35-13 advantage at the close of the period.

Taste of Revenge
Could this be a taste of revenge for the 101-94 Jazz victory over the Bulls just 10 days ago at the United Center? I’m sure TNT, who televised the game nationally, lost some viewers after the quarter ended. I know I would be ready to turn it off and watch something else after witnessing the Clipper game the night before. I however did not have that luxury. I was stuck with 19,910 others who sat in disbelief. Just 2:24 into the second quarter the Jazz were down 41-17. Do the math – that’s a 24 point deficit. Not since Jordan drained the game winning a 3-point bucket with 25 seconds left in game 5 from last year’s NBA Finals had the Delta Center been so quiet for Chicago. I saw people get up and leave the game and I envied them. I was sure I was about to witness a good old fashioned stomping. How far from the truth could I have been?

During the first 18.5 minutes of the game the Bulls were able to score 47 points. From there on they would only finish up with an additional 46. Something clicked for the Jazz, something I’ve seen in limited use this season, something that was a constant last season. They showed us Jazz fans The Desire To Win. Trailing 47-24 with just over 5 minutes left in the 2nd quarter the Jazz started their run. They out scored the Bulls 21-9 to end the half. They went to the locker room with a small spark and only 11 points down, 56-45.

Both teams opened up the second half with the scoring going back and forth. At the 6:12 mark of the third quarter the Jazz capped an 11-0 run to take their first lead of the game, 62-61. The Bulls then took control and went on their own 8-0 run to recapture a 7 point lead, 69-62. I sat back in my chair and went, “Here we go again!” That’s when Flyin’ Bryon Russell hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Howard Eisley threw in another as the Jazz claimed a 71-69 lead to end the third period.

The Bulls saw their last lead with 10:39 left in the game when Jud Buechler hit a 3-point bucket, his second of the game, to give them a 74-73 advantage. From there on out the Jazz fans got their money’s worth, which many paid heavily for. With just 25 seconds remaining, the Fat Lady began to sing when Karl Malone blocked Randy Brown’s 3 point attempt and streaked down court for a bucket over Jordan.

Keys To The Victory
Jordan’s 40 points was not enough for the Bull’s this time. Malone’s 30 points and Stockton’s season-high 18 assists were great, but I would say the key to this game was the play of both benches. The Jazz bench out scored the Bulls 44-18 and also beat them on the boards 14-9. Three of the Jazz bench players were in double digits, Russell 13 points – which included 4-4 from downtown, Shandon Anderson 11, and Chris Morris 10. Morris also played huge in the paint grabbing 6 rebounds. The only bright spot from the Bull’s bench was the pair of 3-pointers from Buechler and 5 rebounds from Scott Burrell.

This just goes to prove once again that basketball is a team sport and even though you may have the greatest player of all time in your lineup a “W” is never guaranteed. There is no I in the word TEAM. I’m not saying Jordan is a ball hog but it just takes more than 1 to win. Just ask Philadelphia. Hey Iverson – You are a BALL HOG!! Give up the rock once in a while!

If you have any comments or story ideas drop me an Email by touching my name at the head of this article.

Until next time – I’m in the bleachers and I’ll see you Back Inside!