Saturday night, the Jazz came back to the Oakland Coliseum Arena, the same place where they hit rock bottom last January and where Frank Layden finally decided to quit coaching last month.
Nothing quite that earthshaking happened this time, but the result was worse: Golden State 131, Jazz 105 - the Jazz's biggest loss of the season.Layden, meanwhile, made his first road trip as a non-coach, but lasted only 40 minutes. Joining general manager David Checketts and members of the Jazz 100 Club in the stands, he left early in the fourth quarter - and was heard mumbling, naturally, about the officiating.
Just when the Jazz's defensive average dropped below 100 points and they took the NBA lead in that category, they ran into the hot Warriors and gave up their most points in two seasons.
"We couldn't stop 'em," said Coach Jerry Sloan.
The Jazz lost a nine-point lead late in the first half and gave up 37 points in the third quarter, most while Mark Eaton was on the bench as Sloan tried unsuccessfully to counter the Warriors' small lineup with one of his own.
"I was just trying a different lineup; we just couldn't get any rhythm offensively," said Sloan.
"I think Jerry was looking for an answer," noted Eaton. "He was just seeing if a different combination would get something going."
The Warriors just kept rebounding and beating the Jazz up the court. "I know they got a lot of easy baskets," said Karl Malone.
"It seemed like they were releasing two and sometimes three guys, and still getting the board," observed John Stockton.
Lost in all the defensive trouble was Malone's 41 points and 13 rebounds. Thurl Bailey added 17 points and John Stockton, playing with a sore left elbow heavily taped, had 15 points and 15 assists.
Besides causing trouble with a switching defense, the Warriors came at them from all directions. Forward Rod Higgins scored a season-high 30 and Chris Mullin, the NBA's No. 6 scorer, followed with his average of 27. Guard Terry Teagle, benched for much of the season, added 19 and the Warriors shot 51 percent - the Jazz have allowed 50-percent shooting only six times, twice by the Warriors.
The consolation for the Jazz is they stand 21-15, much different from the 18-22 record they brought home from Oakland last January. They play at Portland Tuesday.
The end of the first half was absolutely wild - and the Jazz were never in the game after that. The Jazz scored 11 straight points, only to have the Warriors come back with nine in a row. After Darrell Griffith hit a three-pointer with two seconds left, Higgins delivered from the midcourt stripe for a 59-59 tie. A replay showed that Higgins released the ball after the horn, but the call stood.
"It seemed like we were ready to put 'em away, and let 'em back into the game," noted Sloan.
With Ralph Sampson on the injured list and Manute Bol out for the weekend with a sore knee, the Warriors went with an ultra-small lineup. Larry Smith (6-foot-8) was the starting center, and Coach Don Nelson frequently used a three-guard lineup with Mullin and Higgins as the big men.
Surprisingly, the Warriors still hurt the Jazz with offensive rebounds and led by eight early in the second quarter. Malone and Bailey heated up to carry the Jazz to a nine-point lead in the last two minutes of the half, but Higgins went on a tear - scoring 12 points in the last 85 seconds.
When the Jazz lost by 11 to the Warriors last month, Nelson's defense called for surrounding Malone and leaving Stockton alone outside. Malone struggled his way to 24 points and the Jazz offense was knocked off stride, even though Stockton had a career-high 29.
Saturday, Malone overcame the strategy by scoring on the break - he had 22 by halftime and kept coming.
When the Warriors took an early third-quarter lead, Sloan decided to replace Eaton with Bailey to match up better. Eaton stayed on the bench for the last 10 minutes of the third period while the Warriors stayed in command, leading 96-84 after rookie Mitch Richmond scored 13 in the quarter.
Eaton's return hardly changed anything in the fourth quarter, though, and the Jazz never threatened. "We were missing shots, and they pack it in and play behind everybody, and they're in great rebounding position. Shooting and rebounding . . . just minor things in basketball," said Stockton, managing a smile.
JAZZ NOTES: Jose Ortiz entered with 3:33 left and the Jazz down by 22. Eric White, the newest Jazzman, also appeared briefly. Los Angeles-based agent Warren LeGarie represents White and Ortiz, and planned to meet in Oakland today with Checketts to discuss Ortiz's situation . . . After going eight years without signing a player to a 10-day contract, the Jazz have signed two this month. White is wearing No. 22, last assigned to Carey Scurry.