This series was a mismatch. In the Western Conference playoffs, the No. 2 Jazz had no chance against the No. 7 Warriors.
"I kept wishing we could get them into our game," Jazz general manager David Checketts said in the losing locker room Tuesday night. "We never did."The Warriors' Chris Mullin was right when he said before the series that other teams were flexible enough to match small lineups against them, but not the Jazz. Not only were the Jazz unable to use Mike Brown or Eric Leckner at power forward, Thurl Bailey actually became ineffective at small forward against Mullin.
After scoring 21 points in the first half of Game 1, Bailey managed 15 in the last 2 1/2 games of the series. Mullin, also guarded by Bobby Hansen, scored 41-22-35 in the three games. "He was a difficult matchup for me," allowed Bailey.
"You don't like to come into a playoff and not have all your studs playing well," said Coach Jerry Sloan, after Karl Malone, John Stockton and Bailey all struggled in at least one game.
While Sloan tried to adjust to the Warriors by playing Hansen at forward, he never found the right combinations. He suddenly played Brown and then Farmer in the second quarter Tuesday, during Golden State's 17-2 run. He turned to Leckner, who worked all of nine minutes in the series, only when desperate for scoring at the end of the third quarter, and the rookie quickly hit a shot and went back to the bench.
Even in Game 3, the Jazz were still confused. When Malone stepped up to defend a pick-and-roll play and backed off, Darrell Griffith said, "Don't leave." The Jazz also had to use a timeout before in-bounding the ball from the baseline because players were out of position, and they solved the Warriors' trapping defense only in the fourth quarter when Malone started roaring down the lane.
While the Jazz are mostly chalking up the series to running into the wrong team, Mark Eaton, himself hardly a large factor in the series, said, "You've got to take whoever comes and make the adjustments, and we weren't able to do it."
The best the Jazz can hope for is a recovery like the one Dallas made in 1987-88. After winning the Midwest Division and losing to Seattle in four games in the playoffs, the Mavericks reached the Western Conference finals the next year. "I hope it doesn't tarnish the growth process of our team," Sloan said calmly. "I hope we'll take a step forward."