Denver shocks Seattle to force Game 5, D2.It was only fitting that the Jazz would finish their first-round playoff series with a string of show-biz moves. After all, it was a show-biz kind of week. Talk about stealing the show: Karl Malone nailing a 23-footer with the shot clock running down and the San Antonio Spurs coming on in a rush; Malone leaping out to slap down a Spurs pass with a couple of seconds left; and finally, David Benoit finishing the night with a flying reverse dunk at the buzzer.
As noted marketing genius/pop star Madonna pointed out long ago, when you've got a crowd, show them your stuff.The Dennis Rodman/Madonna Traveling Carnival and Freak Show took down its tents and left town in the dead of night Thursday. Malone poured in 34 points and collected 12 rebounds and John Stockton contributed 18 assists as the Jazz took a 95-90 win over the Spurs at the Delta Center. The win gave the Jazz a 3-1 series victory and moved them into a second-round playoff series against the winner of Denver-Seattle.
"It was strange," said Malone, describing the last week's events. "But if you're a true professional, you tune that stuff out. Then you do whatever you can do to get yourself ready."
Even by the exaggerated standards of the playoffs, the Jazz-Spurs series had more than its share of distractions, compliments of Rodman. From the first day in San Antonio, rumors of Madonna sightings, Madonna tickets on will call and Madonna's not-so-secret friendship with Rodman were at every turn. By the time the series had moved to Salt Lake, the rebounding virtuoso and the Queen of Raunch were in full stride. Television cameras and newspapers tracked their movements from hotels to bars to restaurants to health clubs and finally to the Delta Center, where the Material Girl showed up for Thursday's tipoff.
"Yeah," said Jazz guard John Stockton facetiously, "I spent most of the first quarter watching for Madonna."
The other half of the Odd Couple, Rodman, was already drawing attention before tipoff. Showered by a chorus of boos during introductions, he smiled happily for the crowd. He slouched out to the jump-circle, pulled out his jersey, tucked it back in and smirked. After pulling down one early rebound, Rodman held his hands out and beckoned the crowd to boo. Later in the game, to protest a call, he pulled his shirt up around his neck.
"Dennis is Dennis," said Malone. "He definitely got them ready to play tonight. I have a lot of respect for him as a person and as a player . . . Let the guy live his life."
The Mailman's live-and-let-live attitude, of course, didn't apply during the game. With 3:36 left in the half and the Jazz leading by one, Malone took in a rebound with Rodman all over him. Malone shoved Rodman away, and a double-personal foul was called.
When the halftime horn had sounded, Rodman walked over to Malone to offer a few choice words. "Some guys need that to get their team fired up," said Malone. "And I think it worked - a little."
As the game progressed, the Rodman Treatment continued. He fouled Jazz center Felton Spencer, and the two exchanged shoves. Rodman was hit with a technical.
Moments later the Mailman hooked in a shot, and as the crowd roared, Rodman held out his arms, beckoning for more abuse. "What do you think?" Rodman said when asked about the effect of the crowd. "It had no effect at all. No impact at all. It made me feel great that people love me so much. I've got to go out there and do what I've got to do to help my team win. If I can take the pressure off my team, that's great. If I can't, hey, it ain't no good."
While Rodman entertained himself - and his date - by woofing and mugging for the crowd, the Jazz were steadily closing the vault. The Spurs had a 76-71 lead with 8:10 remaining, when a series of crucial plays led to eight straight Jazz points. Benoit, who had five dunks in the fourth period, took a Stockton pass in for a slam and an 83-78 lead with 4:11 to go.
San Antonio mustered a final gasp before dying. Dale Ellis made a driving shot and drew a foul shot - which he missed - with 1:01 to go. But Rodman tipped in the shot, bringing what had been an eight-point Jazz lead down to three. But with the shot clock running down, Malone landed his long perimeter shot for a 93-88 lead with 42 seconds to go.
"I felt it was going to be good - but I still ran in to get the rebound," said Jazz guard Jay Humphries.
After a basket by the Spurs' David Robinson - who led his team with 27 points - Stockton missed a floating shot down the lane, and the Spurs called time out with 12.7 seconds left. Guard Negele Knight attempted to loop a pass to Ellis near the point for a game-tying 3-pointer, but Malone knocked the ball away, then slapped it to Benoit, who finished the game with a dunk.
"I got shoved on that last play, obviously," said Ellis.
"Karl was able to get his hand on the ball," said Benoit, "and the rest is history. I took off with it and gave it a little dunk."
"The referees swallowed their whistles on some calls in the end," said Spurs' coach John Lucas.
While the Jazz move on to the second round, the Spurs are out in the first round for the third time in four years. Rodman left the court exchanging handshakes and hugs with Jazz players, beaten but unbowed. "Next season," he said, "I'm coming back and raising hell again. There's always next year - raising hell."