Just when all these NBA games started looking alike, Golden State visited the Salt Palace. The Warriors were playing a five-guard lineup in the first quarter; Manute Bol was launching three-pointers and showing the Jazz what facing Mark Eaton is like; Karl Malone was woofing at Bol after finally dunking over him, while Eaton was knocked down and bloodied after running into Malone's elbow; and John Stockton had his everyday game and just barely outplayed Winston Garland.
You know, the usual stuff."Actually, it was pretty mild for a Golden State game," observed Stockton.
Friday night's 126-112 victory tied the Jazz (38-23) with Phoenix for the second-best record in the Western Conference and came complete with a weekend off - they play Cleveland in the Salt Palace Monday.
After all the wildness, Stockton stepped up and decided the issue, while closing the gap on his unofficial three-point shooting contest with Bol - Bol still leads for the season, 12-11. With the Jazz ahead by two, Stockton tossed in a three-pointer to beat the shot clock and came back with a leaning shot in the lane. When Malone followed in a rebound, the Jazz were up 112-103 and had at last shaken off the Warriors.
According to the boxscore, this game was nothing out of the ordinary. Malone had 30 points and 14 rebounds, Thurl Bailey added 24 points and a season-high 14 boards and Stockton had 23 points and 15 assists. Terry Teagle led the Warriors with 22 and Garland just missed a triple double - 16 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds.
Coach Don Nelson, ejected early in the fourth quarter, hardly hesitated in describing the game. "It was awful basketball . . . it was ugly," he said.
"They're the ones that make it that way - they do a lot of different things to you," said the Jazz's Jerry Sloan.
Coming off a big home defeat of Cleveland, the Warriors threatened to take a third straight win over the Jazz. With the 7-foot-7 Bol and Ralph Sampson on the bench, Nelson opened with his small lineup, forcing the Jazz's hand. Sloan matched small for small right away, replacing Eaton with Bobby Hansen. "It's not a common, everyday occurrence; that's why he's very successful with it," said Sloan.
"We lost sight of who we were guarding once in a while," noted Bailey.
Counting swignman Otis Smith and Chris Mullin, a former guard who plays as a point forward, Nelson used five guards for a while before sending Bol in for Garland. The Jazz led by one late in the half before Bailey hit a 20-footer and Malone and Darrell Griffith scored on layups, eventually taking them to a 68-58 halftime lead. Once again, the Jazz survived an eight-minute stretch while Stockton was in foul trouble, with Jim Les and Jim Farmer playing the point.
The Warriors went to the other extreme in the third quarter, playing Sampson and Bol together. Were the Jazz relieved to face a more standard lineup? "You're just starting to get used to the completely different style," said Stockton, shaking his head, "and now they've got a very large, normal style."
Bol, the NBA's leading shot-blocker, racked up 10 blocks for the game, mostly at the expense of Bailey and Malone, who rattled two would-be dunks off the back rim in a rookie-year flashback.
"I know how other teams feel when they play us," said Bailey.
Eaton once tried to dunk over Sampson and Bol, bouncing off them and into Malone's elbow. Blood flowed from above Eaton's left eye; he left the game and returned in the fourth quarter. "The next thing I knew, I was on the ground," was all Eaton remembered. Malone was incensed at the suggestion that he'd caused the injury, but that's what the game videotape showed.
Only Stockton seemed to know how to take on Bol, going with reverse layups and using the rim to ward him off. Finally, Malone found an opening and beat Bol with a windmill dunk. After landing, the Mailman barked at Bol, who shook his fist at Malone. Bol later claimed, "He was very close to spitting in my face."
Said Malone, "He wasn't going to get them all. When you don't get them, they make you look real bad."
When Bailey dunked a Hansen lob, the Jazz were up 94-81 in the third quarter and seemingly in control, but the Warriors made a fourth-quarter charge right after Nelson was ejected with a second technical, for protesting a technical on Garland after back-to-back illegal-defense violations. Sloan was claiming no responsibility for drawing violations, with the Jazz spreding out against the Warriors' trap.
"They created them, because they didn't move out of their positions," Sloan said.
The only trouble was, Stockton's technical-shooting phobia returned - he made two of five shots, while all the Jazz struggled from the line in the second half. Mullin, the NBA's No. 7 scorer, shot poorly all game but led the comeback with 10 fourth-quarter points, and the Warriors came within 105-103. They had a chance to tie, but Bol missed a jumper and Stockton took care of the rest.
The Jazz had survived the invasion of the little people - and the Warriors won't be back until the last game of the regular season. That's probably just fine with the Jazz.
JAZZ NOTES: Sloan was working on a travel day, having attended Indiana University's final home game Thursday night. His son, Brian, was honored as one of the Hoosier seniors . . . Farmer's appearance at point guard was his first of the season; Sloan wanted a better shooter than Les on the floor against the trap. The Les Watch: He made 1 of 3 shots, making him 27 of 99 for the season . . . Three-time WAC Tournament MVP Eric Leckner stayed on the bench for only the fourth time this season.