The Jazz's first trip to the world's No. 1 tourist destination wasn't something to take snapshots of. A funny thing happened while they were there: They ran into the Orlando Magic, NBA basketball's version of Hee Haw, and got beat 102-99 in overtime Thursday night.
This wasn't a good way to start a four-game road swing. Only two nights before, the Magic had broken the NBA's longest home losing streak - 16 games - by beating the Mavericks.
If the Jazz wanted to think about it, which they don't, it could be scary. For eight exhibition and five regular-season games they consoled themselves in the fact that they have played all good teams. But this time was different. This was Orlando, where they get serious about Donald Duck and shuttle launches, not basketball.
"It's all right," warned Karl Malone, after scoring 34 points in a losing effort. "It's just another game. We'll be down here again."
Actually, twice. The Jazz play in Orlando - a Midwest Division team this year - on Dec. 22 and again on March 4. But before then, they will get a chance at retribution next Wednesday when the Magic come to the Salt Palace.
That is a long way off. Utah is 2-4 and counting, having lost three straight games for the first time since December, 1988, when the Jazz dropped four in a row to Boston, New York, Cleveland and Philadelphia.
Tonight the Jazz play at Boston, followed by a Sunday game at Minnesota and a Monday contest at Milwaukee.
Those are the games Coach Jerry Sloan says he's interested in, not the last one. Asked by a reporter if he was concerned about the three-game skid, he replied, "Well, we're not calling the season off."
Good idea. Despite the slow start, they can look forward to playing 10 of 13 games at home after this road swing.
For now, he must address the Jazz's shooting problem. Last year's best-shooting team is now ranked 25th. Thursday night the Jazz shot only 41 percent.
However, the Jazz's problem isn't just percentages. It's when the shots were missed. With the score tied at 92-92 and 26 seconds left in regulation, Malone pulled up for an 18-foot jumper that went awry. "No, that's not the shot we'd have liked to have had in that situation," said Sloan.
Good defense forced Orlando into a 24-second violation, giving the Jazz the ball with 2.8 seconds remaining in regulation. But Jeff Malone's 10-foot baseline jumper skipped out at the buzzer.
"It was a good play and I shot it, and it felt like it wasgoing in," said Jeff. "It was just one of those things."
The overtime was more of the same, with Orlando edging ahead and Utah struggling to catch up. But Otis Smith scored on a jumper and Sam Vincent drove the middle for a basket with 18 seconds to go for a 100-96 lead.
Darrell Griffith hit a three-pointer with six seconds left, closing Orlando's lead to one, but Jerry Reynolds, who finished with 22 points, made two free throws.
Griffith's next three-pointer was close, but rimmed out a second before the horn sounded in overtime.
Reynolds was joined by Sam Vincent, who scored 21, and Nick Anderson with 23.
Afterward, the Jazz locker room looked like an emergency room. The Magic had effectively muscled with the Jazz all night and come out ahead. Orlando out-rebounded Utah 44-35, including 10 well-placed offensive boards. At times, the game almost got down to the tackling level.
"That's how some of them stay in the league, that's their job," said Karl. "Some of 'em can't play, so that's all they do, as far as I'm concerned."
Though nobody was hurt seriously, Karl Malone had his right thumb checked for breaks, but there was no serious damage. Mark Eaton had a sprained ankle, but was expected to be ready for tonight. John Stockton and Jeff Malone had ice taped to their knees and Jeff also had his injured right elbow iced again. None is expected to miss the Boston game.
However, that doesn't mean there isn't something wrong. Waiting for the schedule to get better could be risky business. "We don't have that look that you sometimes need," said Karl. "Hopefully we'll get it. And we don't have eternity to do it. We need to get it cranked up, becuse before we know it, it's the end of the season."