The exhibition season is halfway gone and still the Utah Jazz have nothing to show in the way of wins. What, us worry? Up until now Coach Jerry Sloan was losing games partially because he was looking hard at at the rookies. Now it's the veterans who are getting the long looks, and they aren't winning, either.
Although the Jazz's big-time players were in the lineup down the stretch - and for most of the night - Saturday at the Dee Events Center, the results were the same: Boston 114, Jazz 107.Maybe they should just skip ahead to November.
The loss put the Jazz's preseason record at 0-4, the worst exhibition start in franchise history. With two games remaining against Philadelphia, one against Detroit and another against Boston, the chance to go winless in the preseason isn't out of the question.
"I like to win all games, rat ball, ping-pong, everything. But we're certainly not in a panic," said Jazz guard John Stockton.
Utah made a decent try at winning, despite trailing as much as 15 points in the early third quarter. But this time there wasn't a wholesale shuffling of players. The Jazz played most of the fourth period with intent to win. Down the stretch the Jazz sent Thurl Bailey, Stockton, Karl Malone, Darrell Griffith and Mike Brown to battle.
The attempt almost worked. After trailing most of the way, Utah finally went ahead with 4:33 to go on Stockton's layup. Then at the 3:23 mark Malone's free throws put the Jazz ahead by a point again.
But the lead vanished into the cold night. In the final 3:07 Boston outscored the Jazz 11-3 to improve its record 3-0 in exhibition play.
The box score had an entirely different look this time around. Malone put in 39 minutes work, and had a team-high 28 points to show for it. Stockton got 26 points in 36 minutes.
Boston wasn't much different. Kevin McHale and Larry Bird put in 31 and 35 minutes, respectively, while Reggie Lewis played 39 minutes and added a team-high 20.
Things began to unravel for the Jazz shortly after going ahead 104-103. First, Lewis tied up Bailey on a jump ball, which went to the Celtics and turned into a 20-foot basket by Bird. Then Stockton barely missed on a reverse layup, and later Bailey narrowly missed on a finger roll.
The biggest shot came on Lewis's driving shot with 1:12 to go, in which he also drew a foul. The free throw gave the Celtics a 110-104 lead.
"We're at the point where they pick it up and they will start to look more and more like it's the regular season," said Sloan of going with his veterans. "We've got to start getting our act together."
The worst part of the act was the second period. With mostly the starting lineups remaining intact, they battled to a 28-27 Boston lead in the first quarter. But soon the Jazz began to drop back. With the score tied at 32, the Celtics scored 13 straight points through the middle second quarter, to go ahead 43-32. "An awful performance on our part," said Sloan.
The Jazz not only shot poorly in that span, but committed several turnovers. "We threw the ball away like it was a bomb a few times," Sloan continued. "We were afraid the (expletive) was going to go off on us."
The Jazz went nearly four minutes without scoring in the third period, dropping from four points back to 11. Without guard Jeff Malone, who missed the game due to the flu, the fight back was a long one. But the Jazz outscored Boston 18-9 through the middle of the final period, to finally take the lead.
Boston came into the game with a 2-0 record, having handled Detroit and Denver in exhibition games, scoring a whopping 173-155 win over Denver on Friday. That game matched two teams who have moved toward up-tempo offenses.
Predictably, Saturday's contest wasn't such a footrace. Although the Celtics made good on their promise of bringing in their new up-tempo attack, nobody seemed interested in continuing Friday night's 173-155 game between run-and-gun Denver and the Celtics.
GAME NOTES: Eric Johnson didn't dress, due to a bruised heel . . . Boston didn't dress John Bagley or Dee Brown, due to injuries . . . Former BYU star Mike Smith got 11 points for Boston, while his ex-teammate, Andy Toolson, scored five.