For the latest in a series of wild NBA finishes, preseason edition, we give you Manute Bol almost winning the game with a three-pointer.
Only when the 7-foot-7 Bol's 23-footer bounced off the back of the rim did the Jazz escape with a 100-98 victory over Golden State before 5,673 in the Dee Events Center Saturday night."That would have been the world's worst way to lose a ballgame," said the Jazz's Karl Malone.
And imagine this: Bol's launch was right on line - and approved by Coach Don Nelson, even though Nelson put his hands on his head as the shot went up.
"The time was running close enough that it wasn't as terrible as it might have looked," Nelson said later. "He can make that shot, and he has the authority to take that shot."
Just the same, Warrior rookie guard Mitch Richmond might have been better advised to pass to Chris Mullin instead of Bol, who has tried three three-pointers in three NBA seasons and missed them all.
Mullin led Golden State with 21 points and Richmond added 20. Malone had 29 points and 12 rebounds, while Thurl Bailey followed with 20 points, Darrell Griffith with 18 and John Stockton with 16 points and 15 assists. If those sound like big numbers for a preseason game, consider that those four Jazzmen all played at least 36 minutes.
What's Frank Layden doing, trying to win? "Only if they do," he said of his opponents, who had Mullin and Richmond playing big minutes, after Ralph Sampson fouled out in the third quarter. "I'm not going to throw the other guys to the wolves. And we accomplished what we wanted to in the backcourt, because that's exactly what we'll do in the (regular-season) games."
That called for Billy Donovan working only six minutes in relief of Stockton, while Bart Kofoed drew 13 minutes and even played briefly at point guard in his first appearance. All of a sudden, Kofoed becomes an important figure after Bobby Hansen broke his hand Friday. No wonder he says of his once-broken foot, "It doesn't bother me at all."
While Mike Brown missed the game with a bruised thigh, Layden also gave limited minutes to forwards Marc Iavaroni and Jose Ortiz and center Eric Leckner. Griffith, meanwhile, was solid. He defended Richmond decently and added four steals and four rebounds to his 8-of-13 shooting. "It's all coming together," he said.
The Jazz (4-1) have three more exhibitions to polish their game for the Nov. 4 season opener, including a rematch with the Warriors (0-5) in Oakland Tuesday.
After a 33-point loss to the Lakers and a 26-point rout of Philadelphia this week, the Jazz welcomed a genuine 48-minute battle with the Warriors. "If you have 30-point blowouts in either direction every game, I don't think you learn what it takes to win ballgames," said Stockton.
This, certainly, was not exactly a clinic on fourth-quarter execution. In one stretch, the Jazz failed on three trips - an offensive foul on Malone, a 24-second clock violation during a scramble for a loose ball and two missed free throws by Malone after he rebounded Griffith's three-point miss.
That came with 1:20 left and the Jazz down by 98-95 - but they regrouped to score the last five points of the game.
After a Golden State offensive foul, Stockton delivered a 22-foot jumper with 43 seconds left. Richmond missed from outside and Eaton was fouled on the rebound. With a Nelson timeout in between, Eaton made the first free throw and missed the second, but Malone went over Bol to rebound the miss and was fouled going back up.
"He just said, `The game's mine; the game's ours,' " Stockton marveled of Malone.
Fresh from his back-to-back misses, Malone made both - again, with a timeout in the middle - for a two-point lead with 17 seconds left. At the other end, Richmond looked for a shot but went up and dished to Bol - well, he was open.
Nothing like a little excitement at the end.
"That," said Layden, "was a little weird, though."