The Jazz were halfway through their four-game road swing, and Karl Malone had seen enough. Down the stretch he and Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and John Stockton, and everyone else with a name was sitting on the bench.
Instead, there were the likes of Stojko Vrankovic and Dave Popson, Chris Munk and Andy Toolson. The very end of the benches.Yup. A blowout. Reggie Lewis scored 24 points, Bird 23 and Robert Parish 20 as Boston wiped out the Jazz 114-89 Friday night at Boston Garden.
Afterward, Malone made it no secret that he doesn't like the direction the Jazz are going. "I'm not one to voice my opinion," said Malone, "but it's getting sad now . . . that's what it's getting."
Of course, being sad in Boston isn't something new. The Jazz have now lost 21 straight in Boston Garden. In fact, the New Orleans/Utah Jazz have only won one game in the Celtics' home, and that was a 1976 win at Hartford.
But losing in clusters is something new. Utah, 2-5, hasn't lost four straight since December, 1988.
The Jazz made it a game for just over two quarters, and then the wheels started coming off. They went from a three-point lead to a nine-point deficit in just over four minutes. In that span Boston got its newly formed running game going, soon the dunking began. Bird threw in a pair of 20-foot jumpers, and before you could say Red Auerbach, the game was over. Parish put an exclamation mark on the rally by rolling into the lane and dunking with 4:49 left in the third period, to give Boston a 70-61 lead.
The Jazz never came back.
The heart of the Jazz problem was due to taking outside jumpers that led to quick baskets at the other end, and a general lack of defense. The Boston bench, which accounted for 29 points, kept the Celtics' running game going full speed while the Jazz ran out of gas. Again.
"At the start of the third quarter I thought we had a little life, but they just made all their shots, and they got some easy ones," said Sloan.
"They (Boston) got some young people and they want to compete, and they just kicked our butts," said Malone.
Friday's game didn't carry much promise for the Jazz, who were just 22 hours gone from a demoralizing loss to - ugh! - Orlando. Considering the Jazz were 0-for-life in the Boston Garden (20 games), their chances for a victory in Massachussetts were about as good as Orrin Hatch's.
Though the Celtics won't be world champs, they aren't anybody's patsies, either. Bird, who took the heat for scoring just five points one night, came back with 45 the next. End of controversy. Parish and Kevin McHale each had good minutes against the Jazz. And young stars Reggie Lewis and Kevin Gamble beat the Jazz for 24 and 10 points, respectively.
While Sloan was talking fatigue, Malone was talking trade. "There ain't no jet lag. Jet lag has nothing to do with it," Malone said.
"You look down their bench at those guys that come in and they smell blood," said Malone. "You look down ours and we got guys who don't even belong in the league."
Now fully warmed up, Malone continued, "You look around and you see other guys (teams) making moves. Then you look at our squad. Our squad gets the nice guys. Nice guys don't win (bleep)."
Asked what the Jazz should do, he said they need to make some changes, including himself if necessary.
What? The Mailman delivering in another city?
"What do we need to do? We need to make some moves, some changes. Whether it's me or who, we need to do that. I'll be the first to one to say I don't really care. Whether it's me that will have to go or who, I don't really care. But this is not going to get it."
The Jazz were able to get it for half the game. They overcame Boston leads consistently, and took a couuple of two-point leads. At the break the teams were tied 47-47.
Utah started the third quarter with four straight points, but that was the end. Three minutes into the period Boston began to run and the Jazz began to wilt. Boston's lead ballooned to 20 points before the teams waved the white flags.
"Sometimes we settled for the jump shot," Malone said. "We've got veteran players, but we depend on our young guys a lot. And the young guys want to take jump shots. Jump shots won't win ballgames."
Now the Jazz have a day off to await a Sunday contest at Minnesota. Monday they move on to finish out the road swing with a game at Milwaukee. But the Mailman is predicting dark days ahead.
"It's like we're all getting down on ourselves. Years ago we'd laugh at teams on the bottom. Now we're down there."
GAME NOTES: Going into Friday's contest, the Jazz were 25th of 27 teams in field goal percentage. They were also 26th in scoring, averaging 95.3 ponts a game . . . .The Celtics hold a 32-12 all-time record over the Jazz . . . Despite the 6-2 record, Boston's 120-100 loss in the Garden was the Celtics' worst home-court loss since losing to Detroit 115-90 in 1981 . . . Former BYU star Mike Smith has only played more than 10 minutes once this year . . . Jeff Malone's sore elbow continues to swell. It is, officially, an inflammation of the bursa sac. He said Friday he doesn't know when the swelling is supposed to go down.