It is three days since the San Antonio Spurs smashed the Jazz 112-92, but people are still talking about David Robinson. David Robinson blocked 11 shots. David Robinson scored 22 points (after being held to just one point in the first period and six in the half). David Robinson had 18 rebounds. David Robinson for President?
"That game I saw the other night . . . he's the best big man ever to play the game," said Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan.Considering the source, this is truly high praise. Sloan makes blanket statements as often as Brando made movies. "In that game, he was unbelievably quick. He got to everything we shot," Sloan continued. "He's just an awesome player."
This time - when the Jazz and Spurs meet tonight at 7:30 - it will be in Mr. Malone's Neighborhood. In the Salt Palace, the Jazz have defeated the Spurs 13 straight times. "I know one thing: I can't wait 'till tomorrow night," said Karl Malone on Monday.
By most indications, this should be a considerably closer game. Jazz center Mark Eaton, who missed the last two contests with a viral infection, is expected to return. Jazz trainer Don Sparks said Eaton is feeling stronger than last weekend, but isn't likely to be at full strength. When Eaton isn't playing, the job of guarding Robinson falls on backup center Mike Brown.
"Basically, you just play him tough and physical and try not to give him the easy ones," said Brown. "Because of his ability, it's tough to shut him down for 48 minutes, so you just try to cut down the easy baskets."
That effort worked for two periods on Robinson last Saturday in San Antonio, when Brown and rookie Dan O'Sullivan held him to 2-for-6 shooting from the field. But the Spurs got going in the second half with a series of open-court shots and soon Robinson was rolling. "Once he gets going," said Brown, "it's uphill all night."
Although Eaton missed the last game with the Spurs, so did San Antonio's second-leading scorer, Terry Cummings, who has been out with back spasms. Cummings will not play against the Jazz on Tuesday, either.
The teams are tied 1-1 going into the third of a five-game series this year. But when the Jazz won in Salt Lake last November, the Spurs were missing starters Willie Anderson and Rod Strickland. Suspicions are rising that San Antonio, when healthy, has too much depth and talent for the Jazz to overcome them and become the top team in the Midwest Division.
"They have great talent, but I certainly don't want to concede anything to them," said Sloan. "There's still a lot of basketball left to be played."
Added Brown, "They have a very good team, just as we do. Right now we're tied 1-1 and our goal is just to be on the up side in the best-of-five. Now it's down to the best-of-three."
Pregame Notes: Robinson leads the NBA in blocks per game (4.56) and is sixth in scoring (26.3) . . . Karl Malone is fifth in scoring (27.8) and third in rebounding (12.5) . . . John Stockton continues to lead the NBA in assists (14.0) . . . Utah and San San Antonio don't play another in the final six weeks of the season.