The Miami Heat came to town Monday night, and they were just as advertised. They played hard, they shot horribly, they lost and, afterward, their coach was just a little testy.
The Jazz delivered Loss No. 17, adding to the Heat's NBA record for the longest losing streak at the start of a season. The 110-94 decision in the Salt Palace sent the Jazz on their first extended road trip of the season, while the Heat keep heading west in search of a victory.Are these losses increasingly harder to take? "Sometimes," said Coach Ron Roth-stein.
Monday just maybe was one of those times, after the Heat were down 54-46 at halftime, only to crumble in the third quarter. Karl Malone, who should have his mail addressed to the free-throw line these days, scored 15 of his 33 points in that quarter and Darrell Griffith added 11 of his 17, while the Heat made only 7 of 30 shots and lost eight turnovers. The Jazz lead suddenly was 25 points.
"That's when the game got away from us," said Rothstein, the former Detroit assistant. "That's the whole story . . . you can't play winnning basketball when you turn the ball over. It's simple."
Meanwhile, in Miami, the Dolphins were winning their sixth game of the season, raising the question: Will the Heat catch them?
The Jazz's oldtimers, Griffith and president/former coach Frank Layden, know about losing streaks like this. In March 1982, a few months after Layden had taken the coaching job and the Jazz were an expansion team disguised as an established one, they lost 18 in a row.
"That was a long month - seemed like a year," noted Griffith. "I know it's rough on the fellas."
Miami, meanwhile, has to play this season in the Midwest Division, which not only is at least the second-best in the league, but requires two and three trips to every city in the Western Conference. "What's happened to them isn't fair," noted Layden, who assumed his new game-night seat a few rows behind the press table. "They should put all the expansion teams in one division and let them play each other."
Instead, the rotation plan is already in effect - Miami's in the Midwest this season, Charlotte will be there next season and, eventually, Minnesota will join the division permanently. As for the immediate future, the Jazz have five more games against the Heat this season - the streak could be at 21 when the Jazz visit Miami Dec. 23.
By then, the Jazz will be wrapping up the six-game trip that starts in Boston Wednesday night, when guard Bobby Hansen will make his first appearance of the year - swingman Scott Roth was waived to make room for him. In the next month, the Jazz will have to prove themselves on the road, or they'll stir up the same kind of unrest that hit Layden and the team in the Salt Palace last January.
The Jazz are 13-7; they were 11-9 last December when they opened a five-game trip in Boston and lost the first four games, starting the slide that ended up in an 18-22 record. "We have a new attitude this year," said Thurl Bailey.
That's nice, because this December's trip is even tougher than the last, with stops at New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Washington.
All of which would have made Heat upset very damaging. If Rothstein caused any controversy by saying Saturday in Chicago that the Heat's first win would come at Utah - "What am I supposed to say? We're going to lose?" - he hardly riled up the Jazz. In the first half, the Heat outhustled and outrebounded the Jazz, who were definitely not playing in the Jerry Sloan image.
"If we don't get after people defensively, we're not very good," said the Jazz coach.
That all changed in the third quarter, when the Jazz clamped down and held the Heat, easily the NBA's worst shooting team, to 37 percent for the game. At the other end, Malone was in his delivery mode where the only way to stop him is by fouling. He made a career-high 17 free throws, going to the line 21 times for the second straight game.
"When he gets angry, it's a controlled anger," noted Miami rookie Grant Long. "It's not like he starts throwing elbows and stuff, he just fights harder for position and keeps playing under control."
The Heat has lost only five games by 20 or more points, and avoided another of those with a strong fourth quarter against mostly Jazz reserves. "The only consolation," said Rothstein, "is we're not the only team that ever got blown out in this building."
Actually, there was also the standard praise from the winning locker room, which must be getting old to the Heat by now. "When you're having a rough time winning, it would be hard to get up for every game," Malone said. "Those guys inspire you because they go out and play hard. A lot of people don't give them credit, but those guys are going to be OK."
JAZZ NOTES: Yes, the Jazz had a sellout crowd, even for Miami . . . After staying on the bench in Sloan's first two games, forward Jose Ortiz made his 14th start of the season because Marc Iavaroni had the flu. Mike Brown came back after missing two games with the flu and played 18 minutes, close to his season high . . . John Shasky, the Jazz's 1986 third-round draft choice, played seven minutes for the Heat as a backup center. Jon Sundvold, whom the Jazz tried to land via the Kelly Tripucka dealings and the expansion draft, played 20 minutes but is the Heat's fifth guard. Yet another possible Jazzman, former free-agent guard Rory Sparrow, started and played 19 minutes, but struggled.