Thursday night in the Marriott Center, Jazz vs. Lakers was happening all over again. We had Karl Malone and A.C. Green trading stares and glares. James Worthy and Magic Johnson being frustrated by the Jazz defense. And even chants of "Beat L.A.!" in October.
For old-times' sake, Malone and Thurl Bailey were scoring like crazy, John Stockton was doing everything, and the Jazz were making just enough plays to hold off the Lakers at the end.We've seen this before.
Jazz 107, Lakers 97, with a crowd of 17,756 and watching.
Game 3 in the Forum Saturday afternoon, right?
Instead, the Jazz close out the preseason at Indiana, while the Lakers go back to practice to work toward next Friday's season opener at Dallas. "The only thing I can say is it's time to lace them up," said Laker Coach Pat Riley, whose team closed at 4-4.
The May '88 playoff rivals' paths next cross Dec. 2 in Inglewood. For now, this exhibition will have to do.
"It was the real thing," insisted Bailey.
All that were missing were Bobby Hansen, the Jazz's playoff defensive pest, with a cast on his left hand; and Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with a 7-foot-2 toothache. Abdul-Jabbar came to Provo Thursday afternoon after Jazz president-general manager David Checketts convinced Laker GM Jerry West to honor the spirit of the game contract but did not dress after having undergone emergency dental work in Los Angeles. He had no intention of playing but said West directed him to make the trip.
Oh, well. Did anybody miss him?
The Lakers could have used a little inside scoring, but even while shooting less than 39 percent for the game, they made their mandatory late run. Down by 13 entering the fourth quarter, they cut the lead to 92-88 on Johnson's two free throws with 3:23 left. The Jazz reserves had lost a lead down the stretch Tuesday at Golden State - was this the big boys' turn?
"It would have been damaging for us to lose that one," Malone said later. "We would have been thinking, `Can we win big games?' "
The Lakers stopped themselves on two trips with chances to come within two, Mychal Thompson being called for a questionable off-the-ball offensive foul, and James Worthy missing a jumper. With Stockton back in the game after a three-minute rest with five fouls, the Jazz made their move.
Bailey delivered a tricky baseline shot and made two free throws, then Malone answered Byron Scott's jumper with one of his own, and the Jazz were up by eight with 56 seconds left.
"I've been concerned about how we handle the end of a game," noted Layden. "I'd still like to clean it up a little. I don't think we're executing the way we can."
The Jazz have next week to deal with that before playing Seattle. In the meantime, they had last week's 33-point loss - mostly, blame the reserves, some since-departed - to the Lakers in the Forum, not to mention their showing in Provo last October. They lost by 14 to Boston, and Layden ripped the team privately and publicly afterward, calling them selfish, among other things. When he walked into the BYU locker room Thursday night, Stockton could remember Layden's postgame speech, almost word for word.
After the latest Marriott Center outing, Layden had to say, "We deserved to win the game."
If the Jazz's play answered some questions, this one lingered: How provincial is Provo? Consider that more than 22,000 came to see the Danny Ainge-Fred Roberts-Greg Kite Celtics last fall, but all kinds of empty seats were left for the two-time World Champions.
In any case, this was worth watching. Malone had a preseason high 30 points, while Bailey added 25 and Stockton 21. Johnson and Scott had 21 and 20 for the Lakers but combined to make only 15 of 39 shots. Worthy (five of 16) was just as bad, thanks to Bailey's defense.
And by now, is there any doubt that Bailey is no longer a Sixth Man Award candidate? He's started all seven exhibitions. "Nothing's set in stone," he said. "It's nice to know I can do both."
And the Jazz are glad to know they can still play with the champs. Just like in May. "Whenever we play the Lakers," said Bailey, "that's going to be in our minds."