Probably not by popular demand, the Golden State Warriors are back in town for the NBA playoffs this week, bringing in almost a totally different team but still reviving all those, uh, wonderful memories of the 1987 Jazz-Warriors series. This should sound familiar: Rickey Green's injury just before halftime of Game 2. The Karl Malone-Greg Ballard/George Karl-Salt Palace fans fight right after Game 2. The Collapse in the third quarter of Game 4. The hopeless rally from 22 points down in Game 5.
Yeah, that series.In the wake of the Warriors' comeback victory, Malone was saying, "This'll haunt me the rest of my career."
The latest check shows the Mailman, then completing his second NBA season, has apparently overcome the trauma. "Ain't (nothing) going to haunt me the rest of my career," he said Saturday. "Absolutely nothing."
Just the same, the series is memorable. Here's why:
Game 1, Salt Palace: Jazz 99, Warriors 85 - The Jazz won routinely, as Green continued his season-long mastery over All-Star guard Sleepy Floyd with 15 points and 15 assists in 39 minutes. Malone and Thurl Bailey had 20 points each and the Warriors, new to playoff basketball, struggled offensively. Still, they put up enough resistance to cause Malone to say, "It's going to be a real physical series - I can see it coming."
Game 2, Salt Palace: Jazz 103, Warriors 100 - The Jazz were rolling late in the first half when Green slowed up to avoid Malone on a fast break at midcourt and pulled a hamstring muscle; they still led by 17 at halftime.
The Jazz missed their first 10 shots of the second half and the Warriors came back, making a fourth-quarter run when Bobby Hansen had to play point guard with John Stockton on the bench with five fouls. Down by one in the last minute, the Jazz scored on a Darrell Griffith drive and a Malone follow dunk.
On the Warriors' last chance, Ballard dropped the ball and Malone recovered on the sideline. Ballard grabbed Malone, but the foul came after the horn sounded. When they separated, Malone tossed the ball at Ballard and the fight started. Karl, the Golden State coach, tangled with a courtside fan amid the circle of players, and Malone was later cited by the NBA office as the instigator of the fight.
After the game, Malone said, "I wish I had done just what I did. I'm not going to be pussy-footing anybody."
After the series, the Warriors pointed to the fight as the clear turning point, although Chris Mullin claims now, "I don't really remember what happened."
The Jazz remember. "The end of Game 2 is what changed everything around; the near-riot . . . how Golden State rallied around that, the whole community rallied around that," says Hansen.
"It was pretty much a done deal," Mark Eaton says of the Jazz's 2-0 series lead. "That incident really got them going."
Game 3, Oakland: Warriors 110, Jazz 95 - The fight and ensuing hype helped the Warriors sell 5,000 remaining tickets. Frank Layden showed up for the game in a funny-nose-and-glasses disguise. Green tried to play in the first half, and Malone, while claiming to thrive on the villain role, was clearly distracted - he scored 15 points and Layden said later, "I think we had a few guys who weren't ready to play; who came over here and thought it would be easy."
Terry Teagle led the Warriors with 30 points.
Game 4, Oakland: Warriors 98, Jazz 94 - With Green unable to play, Stockton was outstanding by his '87 standards - 15 points, 11 assists, six steals. The Jazz had a 15-point lead with 3:28 left in the third quarter, but the Warriors cut the lead to six by the end of the period. When Stockton left the game for the first time, drawing his fifth foul with 10:47 left, the Jazz were in trouble.
Kelly Tripucka filled in decently at the point, but there was no stopping the Warriors. Purvis Short scored 32 points and Malone played the fourth quarter on an injured ankle.
Afterward, Lakers scout Randy Pfund smiled, shook his head and held up a packet of diagrams, saying, "I had my report on Utah done." Good thing he saved his notes on the Warriors, too.
The Jazz's Thurl Bnailey insisted, though, "I can't see Golden State beating us three times."
Game 5, Salt Palace: Warriors 118, Jazz 113 - On a Sunday afternoon, with only 11,071 watching - the third straight non-sellout crowd - the Jazz trailed by 22 with 4:12 left in the third quarter. They were down by only three with 2:40 left in the game, but the rally stalled. "We just couldn't get the last piece of the puzzle," Griffith said.
Griffith, coming off the bench that year, made 12 of 41 shots in the last three games. Layden, who used an unconventional lineup when the Jazz collapsed at the end of the first half, was unavailable for comment - for the third time in the series, the fourth time that season and the fifth time of his career. Malone, still bothered by the ankle, had 23 points, but never dominated a game in the series. Stockton had 14 points and 13 assists.
Where are they now?
Here's what became of key figures in the 1987 Jazz-Warriors playoff series:
Greg Ballard - Warrior forward went to Italy the next season; returned to the NBA with Seattle briefly this year.
George Karl - Warrior coach resigned during the next season; coached at Albany of the CBA this year.
Frank Layden - Jazz coach resigned last December; is now team president.
Rickey Green - Jazz guard went to Charlotte in the expansion draft last summer; in March, he was waived by the Hornets and signed by Milwaukee.
Kelly Tripucka - Jazz guard/forward was traded to Charlotte last summer.
Sleepy Floyd - Warrior guard was traded to Houston.
Purvis Short - Warrior forward was traded to Houston in separate deal.