The Jazz are their lovable, unpredictable selves again. In case you were wondering about them, the Road Jazz came back Saturday night.
Thanks to a late run by Eric Leckner, Jose Ortiz and friends, the Jazz managed to make a 107-89 loss to Milwaukee in Bradley Center look respectable. That was about the only good news for the Jazz in a game that left two questions:Which team, again, was playing on a miserable travel day?
How did the fog affect the Jazz inside the arena?
The Bucks; and that's the Jazz for you.
Aftes showing signs of life on the road by taking Houston to the wire and soundly defeating Chicago this week, the Jazz crumbled against the Bucks and brought back memories of last month's Miami madness.
"Two different teams," said the Jazz's Mark Eaton, reviewing the road week and shaking his head.
For the Bucks, this was worth everything they went through to get here. "You have to give all the credit in the world to these players, playing under these conditions," said Coach Del Harris.
The game's start was delayed by 65 minutes, because fog prevented the Bucks from landing in Milwaukee on their return flight from Washington. Their traveling party, which included owner Herb Kohl, a U.S. senator, had to take the long way home.
No doubt, this was a tough day for the Bucks, who had won a double-overtime game Friday. After their plane circled Milwaukee for about an hour, they eventually landed in Grand Rapids, Mich. - and had to ride the bus for almost five hours directly to the arena, arriving about 20 minutes before the originally scheduled start.
Remembering a fog re-routing in his Jazz days, the Bucks' Fred Roberts said, "This was worse."
The Jazz, meanwhile, had a full day's rest, having bused from Chicago immediately after Friday night's win over the Bulls. Which hardly explains why they played so lousy - they trailed 54-37 after their lowest-scoring first half of the season.
Coach Jerry Sloan was afraid of all this. "I hate like hell to have to play a game like this," he said afterward. "I've seen it happen too many times."
On the bus from Chicago Friday night, he cautioned the Jazz about dwelling too much on a win. Before this game, he cautioned them about thinking their supposed advantage would make a big difference.
"I knew they were going to play well," he said of the Bucks.
If he can ever figure out his own team as easily, he'll be getting somewhere.
"That's one thing we have not been, is consistent," said Eaton.
Karl Malone led the Jazz with 24 points, but the team shot less than 40 percent for the second time this season - Miami, of course, was the other - and were back to losing turnovers (24). Darrell Griffith's 3-of-12 shooting was not much worse than anybody else's, but did add to a four-week slump during which he's made half his shots in only one of 12 games.
"I try not to worry about it, because right now, we've got to have him out there," said Sloan.
Griffith, meanwhile, is a stranger to worry. "I never do that; not at all," he said, even though his shooting has dropped below 45 percent. "I know (shots) haven't been falling the last five or six games. Everybody probably goes through that once a year - it's not the first time."
Forward Terry Cummings had 25 points for the Bucks and guard Ricky Pierce came off the bench for 24. "They did what they wanted to do," said Malone.
Playing sluggishly, the Jazz took a 23-21 lead into the second quarter being unraveling. They managed only 14 points in the period, while losing one turnover after another that led to easy Milwaukee baskets. Sloan was losing his running battle with referee Mike Lauerman, and the Jazz were again struggling against a trapping defense - while their own trap was ineffectiv
Third quarter, same story. Sloan searched for something redeeeming about the game by trying Bailey at guard again and playing his rookies for a good chunk of the quarter. As the final period opened with the Jazz down 84-54, Sloan sent the regulars out on the floor for more.
They hustled and started scoring, but could do no better than hold the Bucks' lead to 30, so Sloan went back to the benchmen for the last 6:24. All of a sudden, Leckner had nine points and eight rebounds and the Jazz had the margin down to 17. Harris decided he had to rush starters Jack Sikma and Paul Pressey into the game.
The hardest part is still ahead for the Jazz. They have to find their way out of the fog today and go to Charlotte for Monday's game with the Hornets.
JAZZ NOTES: Another Phil Johnson connection: Milwaukee assistant Frank Hamblen was Johnson's chief assistant in Sacramento . . . After having eight steals and one turnover in two games on the trip, Stockton had one steal and five turnovers . . . Jim Farmer's 17 minutes were a career high . . . Road losses of 21 points to the Lakers and Miami officially remain the Jazz's worst of the season.