Jazz-Pistons II lived up to all the advertising and more. With a sellout crowd and local TV audience staying up to watch until the end, Detroit's Bad Boys came to the Salt Palace Wednesday night for three full hours of all-out roughhousing, fouls after fouls, serious defense that only Jerry Sloan could love and, just for fun, a few big-time, clutch shots.
When the longest game in Jazz history finally ended, five players had fouled out and the Pistons had finally shaken off the Jazz for a wildly draining, 108-104 double-overtime victory."A very emotional game," the Jazz's Thurl Bailey was saying, and that was just scratching the surface.
"If you're going to win in this building, you gotta fight people," said Detroit Coach Chuck Daly, who settled for watching most of the game on TV.
After John Stockton's 3-pointer forced the first overtime and Isiah Thomas' in-and-out shot gave the Jazz a second OT, Thomas decided the issue. His left-side jumper with 30 seconds left gave the Pistons the lead for good, and Sloan, the Jazz coach, found no consolation in making the NBA's latest, best team (51-17) play 10 extra scoreboard minutes.
"I don't like to survive; I like to win," he said defiantly, after the Jazz's 12-game home winning streak was gone. "That's my nature, and I want our guys to have the same attitude . . . I don't believe in coming in second."
As promised, a little of everything happened in this game. Let's see . . . The Jazz scored the first 10 points; Daly was ejected, after which the Pistons scored eight straight to cut the halftime lead to 42-40; Bill Laimbeer became the designated villain, a familiar role, by knocking the wind out of Stockton with a forearm; the Jazz played through Stockton's foul trouble to take a 66-61 lead into the final quarter; their most effective overtime scorer was, no kidding, Eric Leckner; and the Jazz had to play both OTs without Malone.
Want more? How about Bailey scoring 17 in the first half and missing his next nine shots? Or guards Bobby Hansen and Darrell Griffith combining to go 1 of 14? And after the teams shot 86 free throws, the Jazz figured the big play was a no-call, when Leckner was wrestled down by Rick Mahorn in the lane and Stockton had to throw up a jumper that was short with the shot clock running out and the Jazz down by two. "I thought I had good position," Leckner said later.
Fortunately - or not - these teams are scheduled to play only twice a year. The CBS-TV people must be shuddering at the thought of seven games of relentless pounding and final scores in the 80s if they meet in June in the NBA Finals. For the defensive Sloan, meanwhile, this was the ultimate. "That's the way basketball is supposed to be played," he said.
The Pistons managed to shoot .432 from the field, exactly the Jazz's defensive average. Thomas had 25 points, Mark Aguirre added 23 and Vinnie Johnson had his funny-looking shot working for 22, before being benched late in regulation.
Bailey managed 27 for the Jazz, Malone 26. Forced to play a career-high 41 minutes amid all the foul trouble, Mike Brown had a season-high 16 points and seven rebounds and Leckner had 10 points in 13 minutes, all of which failed to impress Sloan. "People look at the box score and say guys played all right because they scored - you've got to defend," he said. "I've got to look at the other end."
In the end, the Jazz became the last NBA team to play overtime in 1988-89. They missed a chance to be the first team to beat everybody else this season; they've still never done that in franchise history, thanks to two tough losses to the Pistons. With help from assistant coach Brendan Suhr, Daly locked up the NBA Coach of the Month award for March, ahead of Sloan, a strong contender.
The Jazz had their chance in regulation, ahead by three after two Bailey free throws with 1:35 left. Immediately after a timeout, Thomas drove for a three-point play, drawing Malone's sixth foul. Later, after two Laimbeer free throws put the Pistons up by three with nine seconds left, Stockton dribbled along the 3-point circle on the right angle, ducked under the 6-foot-6 Mahorn and offered a shot that just sneaked over the front rim as the horn sound on to overtime, where the Jazz lost Eaton to fouls right away. That brought on Leckner, who scored from the baseline but gave up two Laimbeer jumpers. In between those, the Jazz had taken leads when Bailey and Hansen (1 of 10) finally broke through. After Brown made two free throws to tie the game with eight seconds left, Thomas' jumper from the right side went in and out - another overtime, starting at 98-98.
By now, Leckner was feeling good. "If I'm in the game, I always want the ball," he said. After Leckner's two inside baskets, Bailey scored the Jazz's last points on a rebound with 2:35 left. After a tough offensive foul call on Bailey, Thomas answered with two jumpers, while Bailey and Hansen missed shots. The Jazz's last chance came when Leckner was pulled down in the lane and Stockton missed in desperation; Joe Dumars' two free throws with three seconds left officially wrapped things up.
JAZZ NOTES: Marc Iavaroni's "Did not play" was his first since Dec. 12, when he had the flu, and his first via coach's decision since January 1988, covering 122 games . . . Hansen played a season-high 41 minutes to Griffith's 18 . . . Houston was idle and pulled to within five games of the Jazz; the magic number is still nine for clinching the Midwest Division championship . . . The Jazz are taking today off. They'll practice Friday and go to Sacramento on Saturday to play the Kings.