Detroit isn't worried. Portland isn't getting up early for practice. In fact, the rest of the NBA maybe hasn't even noticed, but the Jazz are on a roll.
OK, so maybe it's only a two-game winning streak. But it's tied for the best streak they've had through 11 games. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't graceful. But the Jazz got past Seattle in the Salt Palace Friday night, holding off a late Sonics' run to take a 97-96 victory.Jeff Malone sank a 15-foot jumper with 1:54 to go and the Seattle's Derrick McKey narrowly missed a buzzer tip, as the Jazz improved to 5-6 on the year.
Eleven games into the season, the Jazz aren't sure of a lot of things. Thurl Bailey still hasn't found his shooting touch, though he is slowly improving. Learning how to win certainly isn't down pat. Holding the lead is shaky, too. In fact, the Jazz aren't even having fun yet.
"It's a job. A job right now," said the Jazz's Karl Malone. "It ain't fun yet. Boy, I feel like I'm working the graveyard shift."
On the other hand, going to work is looking pretty good for some. Since taking over a starting role a week ago, Blue Edwards has gradually improved. Friday night, his promised outside shooting touch began to click, as he made a fine nine-of-12 and totaled 18 points.
Despite Karl Malone's 30 points and an overall good team defensive effort, it almost went out the window at the end. Jeff Malone had put in the go-ahead basket, but he and Bailey both missed shots in the last minute. Trailing by one, the Sonics took a time out with 29 seconds left.
To no one's surpise, the ball went to Xavier McDaniel, who was closing out a 33-point night. But instead of finding Edwards guarding him, he was looking up at Bailey, who blocked his planned drive to the basket. When he went up with a 10-foot jumper, Mark Eaton came in for help, and McDaniel's shot fell short with six seconds remaining.
"It could have gone either way. I'd like to go back and shot that shot again. I've made it a million times," said McDaniel.
However, when you're playing the Jazz there's almost always a second chance. Delaney Rudd missed two free throws with 1.3 seconds to go, and the Sonics were still alive.
"What makes this bad, is that in my case, as a backup point guard, you only get that chance once in a blue moon," said Rudd.
Seattle called time out with a second remaining, after which Nate McMillan threw an in-bounds pass near the rim to McKey. McKey tapped the ball but it fell away from the rim as the horn sounded.
"A great play," said Karl Malone. "They almost got it down. Me and Jeff (Malone) were right there and it was a perfect lob pass."
For the first two minutes of the game, the Jazz found themselves struggling, as the Sonics took a 6-0 lead. "We were a little discombobulated," said Coach Jerry Sloan.
But the Jazz soon crept out to a seven-point lead early in the second quarter, taking advantage of free throws and horrible shooting by the Sonics. Seattle missed its first seven field goal attempts of the quarter, as the Jazz built a 30-23 lead.
Despite getting the lead, both teams seemed to be bothered by a recurring Jazz malaise: poor shooting. In the second period, Utah made only six of 20 shots; Seattle made five of 18.
Although both teams improved in the second half, both missed good opportunities - particularly the Jazz. Utah got the lead up as far as 11 points late in the period, but then McDaniel went to work, helping close the lead to five by the end of the period.
With John Stockton in foul trouble all night - he fouled out with 2:41 to go and he played only 26 minutes - the Jazz went with Rudd down the stretch.
The victory, Coach Jerry Sloan's 100th as Jazz coach, didn't go far in his Big Deal registry. "It doesn't mean a thing," said Sloan. "It's nice to get the win, but each day you go to work."
Game notes: The Jazz shot over 50 percent for threestraight games, but fell to 47 percent against the Sonics. Prior to that they shot only .429 percent through the first seven games . . . Utah beat Seattle three of four times they met last year, but Seattle holds a 47-27 all-time mark against the Jazz . . . The Sonics have won only once in the past six games aganst Utah . . . McDaniel ranks fourth on the Sonics' all-time scoring list and third in rebounding . . . Darrell Griffith received a standing ovation after being awarded a plaque for playing in 700 games for the Jazz . . . .Sonics guard Dana Barros left the game after being kicked in the head. A CAT scan at a Bountiful hospital turned up negative. He will get another CAT scan tomorrow in Seattle.