John Stockton set a Utah Jazz record with 28 assists Tuesday night. He might have set an NBA mark if he and his teammates weren't having such an easy time with the Midwest Division-leading Spurs.
Stockton just missed the NBA record of 30 assists set last month by Orlando's Scott Skiles. But he was lifted from the game with exactly one minute left and the Jazz up by 25.Coach Jerry Sloan was aware of Stockton's numbers but didn't think twice about helping his point guard make NBA history.
"They told me, but I'm not interested in records," said Sloan. "It's nice for guys to make them, but I wasn't going to leave John in for records. And I'm sure he didn't want to stay in there either. He wants to see the other guy play. The record everybody is most concerned about is the win."
Instead, Stockton joined a couple of oldtimers in a tie for third on the NBA single-game assist list. Boston's Bob Cousy had 28 assists against Minneapolis in 1959 and Guy Rodgers had 28 for San Francisco in 1963. Stockton's previous best was 27 against New York in 1989.
"John's ballgame was terrific," said Sloan. "He did a great job of finding people and getting the ball where we wanted."
Spurs coach Larry Brown, a pretty good point guard in his day, echoed Sloan. "He was phenomenal. Stockton might have beaten us by himself tonight. He played as great as David (Robinson) played in San Antonio Saturday. He was just terrific."
Things didn't go well early for Stockton, who had four turnovers in the first 15 minutes.
"I think I was probably pressing a little bit and trying to make things happen too much," said Stockton. "And as often happens when I do that, I get myself into trouble.
Sloan said Stockton started off a little shaky because he "was trying to pinpoint some of passes early and had some turnovers."
After getting four assists in the first period, in which he played his standard seven minutes, Stockton got cookin' with nine second-quarter assists.
In the third period, he made five assists in a two-and-a-half-minute span, two resulting in Mark Eaton dunks and two in Blue Edwards dunks. He was up to 18 with 8:18 still left in the third quarter and folks on press row began to realize Stockton on track for the NBA mark.
However, he didn't get any more assists in the quarter as Delaney Rudd replaced him for four minutes and Jazz teammates blew a few chances.
To start the fourth quarter, Stockton keyed a 10-2 run with a pair of assists and a four points of his own. Then he hit Darrell Griffith for back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 101-82 and virtually slam the door on the Spurs.
Stockton's 26th assist came at the 3:15 mark when he dished to Jeff Malone, who hit a 15-footer. A minute later, Malone stole one of Stockton's assists when he passed to Blue Edwards for a dunk when he could have taken it in himself.
No. 27 came at the 2-minute mark on a Karl Malone slam and No. 28 at the 1:08 mark with Rudd waiting for a half minute at the scorer's table.
If you think Stockton was left in the game too long, consider this: when Skiles set the NBA mark on Dec. 30, his last assist came with 19 seconds left in the game . . . in a 39-point win over Denver. Sloan had no second thoughts about leaving Stockton in for one more minute.
"I'm not trying to embarrass anybody and I certainly don't want a player to get hurt trying to do those things. My first concern is to win the game."
Here is assist-by-assist recap of John Stockton's record-setting night when he set a Jazz record with 28 assists. Only two NBA players, Scott Skiles with 30 and Kevin Porter with 29, have done better.
No. Player, Play Time
1. K. Malone, 15-footer 11:43
2. K. Malone, layup 10:23
3. J. Malone, 15-footer 7:15
4. J. Malone, 15-footer 6:46
5. Brown, layup 10:27
6. Bailey, 18-footer 7:33
7. K. Malone, layup 7:13
8. J. Malone, 12-footer 6:25
9. K. Malone, layup 4:38
10. J. Malone, layup 2:33
11. K. Malone, dunk 1:18
12. J. Malone, 18-footer :47
13. J. Malone, 15-footer :06
14. Eaton, dunk 10:51
15. J. Malone, 14-footer 9:49
16. Eaton, dunk 9:08
17. Edwards, dunk 8:43
18. Edwards, dunk 8:18
19. K. Malone, dunk 11:34
20. Brown, 15-footer 10:42
21. Griffith, 3-pointer 8:52
22. Griffith, 3-pointer 8:12
23. Eaton, in paint 7:28
24 K. Malone, dunk 6:48
25. J. Malone, layup 5:58
26. J. Malone, 15-footer 3:36
27. K. Malone, layup 2:00
28. K. Malone, dunk 1:08