Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson were back from their fishing trip and ready to work. Karl Malone was talking animatedly. Marc Iavaroni was dusting off memories of Philadelphia in '84.
All considered, things were fairly breezy Monday on Elimination Row.The Jazz were loose after practice at Westminster College, before taking an evening flight to Oakland for Tuesday night's Game 3 of the best-of-five playoff series with Golden State in the Coliseum Arena. A loss Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday would quickly end the Jazz season.
While the shock of the Warriors' two Salt Palace victories settles in, Golden State forward Chris Mullin is saying, "I'm surprised, pleasantly surprised."
Who knows what will happen next in this series. For some reason, the Jazz seem to like the possibilities.
"Why not go in there and be loose?" asked Malone. "My attitude is just to go in and play and have fun."
Which is a little different than his original approach to the series, when he cut off interviews. "I was intense the first game; that didn't work," said Malone. "I was relaxed the second game; that worked."
Malone's 37 points through three quarters of Game 2 had the Jazz ahead, but they faded fast in the fourth quarter. The reliable John Stockton missed eight straight shots - that's the good news, he figures. "That, I have to say, can't continue," Stockton noted. "We just stopped shooting well. We were taking good shots, too."
Generally, the Jazz are chalking up their troubles to just running into the wrong team in the first round. Because of Golden State's goofy lineups, Mike Brown has hardly played, Mark Eaton has blocked only two shots and the Jazz have not taken real advantage of their own inside game - mostly, because they've missed outside shots that could have helped open up Malone.
Manute Bol, meanwhile, has blocked 13 shots, and he's noticed his margin over Eaton. "He's the best; I don't say he isn't," he told Bay Area reporters. Bol smiled. "Two blocks in two games. He must be the best."
In any case, the unusual matchup has shown that it's little wonder the Warriors maneuvered themselves - at least right at the end - into the No. 7 seed for the Western Conference playoffs.
"This is the toughest matchup of all the teams we could have played - they obviously were aware of that themselves," said Sloan, who gave himself and Johnson a day off for a quick trip to a lake in southern Idaho, although Sloan didn't actually fish. "I didn't expect to be down 0-2, but I knew you could struggle against them because of what they do to you offensively and defensively . . . If we have one of our core players have a tough night, we struggle."
The funny thing about all this is, the picture could change considerably in one game. The Warriors, coming home to their wild, sellout crowd of 15,025, are anxious to complete the sweep. "We have the opportunity to put this team away," said forward Terry Teagle.
If not, the pressure swings back onto the Warriors, who have to win Game 4 to avoid a return to Salt Lake City. That's a best-of-five series for you.
"It's amazing, if we go in there and get one game, what happens," said Malone.
"We're not taking it lightly, but we're not getting all tensed up about it," noted Thurl Bailey. "There's no need to panic or get uptight about it."
Iavaroni played for the '84 Philadelphia team that was coming off an NBA title season and lost the first two games of the first-round series - at home, to New Jersey. The Sixers won the next two games on the road before losing Game 5 at home. "It was a strange series," says Iavaroni, reduced to an observer's role these days. "(The Nets) came in with a lot of energy, very much like Golden State. It said a lot about the team we had that year, a lot of character."
Could the Jazz do the same? Do they have a chance to win three straight?
"We've been through a lot," Iavaroni says. "You can't worry about winning three; you have to be thinking `one out of one.' "
For the Jazz, that assignment might be tough enough.