Now that the Jazz have the Golden State Warriors precisely where they want them . . .
You're thinking it's over for the Utah Jazz Professional Basketball Club. At least until next October. You're thinking they're as done as Ferdi nand Marcos. As out of it as disco. As finished as Michael Spinks.You're thinking that losing one straight at home was bad enough, but two straight is the basketball equivalent of the unpardonable sin. In a best-of-five series that now moves to the Warriors' home court that's like letting Minnesota Fats break, like competing against insider trading.
You're thinking it's over because Magic Johnson said it's over; it's over because the odds-makers in Nevada are snickering as they're putting the numbers up on the big board, and the Warriors are heavier favorites than Dennis Conner with two hulls. You're thinking it's over because the only people betting on Utah are on desert islands. You're thinking the Jazz should mail in their game plan and call it a postseason.
You're thinking the fat lady has already sung, the track announcer has said, "Gentlemen, stop your engines," the doves have been released, the Games Have Been Declared Closed, April 15th has come and gone; you're thinking even Yogi Berra himself would agree.
When, in actuality, there are hundreds of reasons why the Jazz are now right where they want to be.
Let's list six:
I. The prevailing notion that it's practically a historic impossibility to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a five-game series is mathematically skewed. Statisticians like to note that this has only been accomplished two times in the 42 years of NBA playoffs. What they don't tell you is that five-game series have been used only sporadically over those 42 years. They weren't used for the first seven years, for example, of league existence, or at anytime from 1968 through 1984. All losing two straight means is that you have to win two straight to catch up. It's been done hundreds of times during the course of NBA regular seasons.
II. Don Nelson is not, as has been widely circulated by now, a playoff coaching genius. In 11 years with Milwaukee, his Bucks teams won 42 playoff games and lost 46. Next to guys like Auerbach, Riley, Jones, Cunningham and Kundla, Nelson is just another guy who's coached a lot of playoff games.
III. The Jazz are finally underdogs, which can be extremely advantageous in a schizophrenic series such as this Warriors-Jazz series, where playing loose and outrageous is preferable to playing with everything to lose.
IV. Ralph Sampson might play.
V. With the 72 hours between Game 2 and Game 3, the Warriors could very possibly reflect on who they are, and realize that, among other things, they're a couple of starters (Rod Higgins and Winston Garland) who were recently picked up on the CBA Freeway, and a 7-foot-7 Dinka tribesman who shoots 3-point shots with roughly the same delivery as a 24-gauge shotgun.
VI. And there is no sign in front of the Oakland Coliseum that says, "We Will Rock You."
The Jazz have the Warriors backed into a corner, all right. They've got them home to their villas overlooking the San Francisco Bay, sleeping in their own oversized beds, eating at their favorite fashionable nouvelle restaurants. They've got them back to a place where they're getting more pats on the back than Secretariat after he won the Derby.
The giant-killing Warriors haven't had to pay a single cent for food or drink for three days now; people have been asking them if they'd like their sneakers shined, their BMWs washed, their houses cleaned, their shirts taken over to Chinatown for a quick laundering.
They're a lock, a cinch to clinch, a one-man election, a foregone conclusion, a sure thing, a prohibitive favorite.
They're right where the Jazz want them. The Jazz could sell them the Brooklyn Bridge. They could sell them lava rock beaches in Hawaii, swamp land in Florida, the Salt Flats. They could sell them the Bay Bridge. This is a team with its checkbook out. A team ready to be had. Stick a fork in `em. They're done. They're about to enter the Favorite Zone. It's where the Jazz were two years ago against Golden State. Of all professional basketball franchises, they know just how precarious such a position can be. In this rivalry, it's not over until one team goes up 2-zip.