Where's the Keefe?
That question was asked by just about everybody at the Delta Center when Game 5 tipped off Sunday afternoon and Adam Keefe wasn't on the floor.Instead, Bryon Russell was the Jazz's starting small forward for only the second time since he asked to come off the bench in early November. The last time Russell started was when Keefe missed the Detroit game on Jan. 19 due to the birth of his twin daughters.
By starting Russell, the Jazz were hoping for some quick offensive energy and a better matchup defensively on Clyde Drexler.
Russell didn't shoot particularly well, hitting four of 11 attempts, but he grabbed eight rebounds and had four steals while playing a team-high 45 minutes in the Jazz's 84-70 victory.
Russell wasn't making a big deal out of getting the start, though.
"It don't matter to me as long as I can contribute," he said. "I just try to play as hard as I can for as long as I can, which was 45 minutes (today)."
Though he played for only the last 16.2 seconds of the game, Keefe didn't complain.
"It's bigger than that," he said. "You know this is about the team winning."
After starting 75 of the past 76 games and averaging about 26 minutes a game, Keefe played only a total of 45 minutes in the five-game series against the Rockets.
SILLY WOCKET: Dressed in an all-beige casual suit, the injured Charles Barkley sat at the end of Houston's bench during Sunday's game. And as far as anyone could tell, he didn't have extra long ears, a carrot or a gun.
Barkley didn't play because of a torn tricep muscle, but he was still the target of a lot of derision. His much-ballyhooed "rabbit-turns-hunter" analogy gave Jazz fans - and players alike - plenty of ammunition to use against him.
Dozens of fans brought home-made signs comparing Barkley and his analogy to the ongoing hunt between cartoon characters Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. It was, as a sign stated, the closing of "whaa-but season" at the DC.
One of the best-received posters showed Bugs holding a gun to his head with the caption, "Chuck like this?"
Another asked, "What's up Chuck?" Probably the most appropriate sign, though, was of a relieved Elmer bragging: "Now I've got you Wascley Wockets."
17-AND-UH-OH: After Houston shocked the Jazz in Game 1 at the Delta Center a week-and-a-half ago, a lot was made about the Rockets' perfect track record for taking playoff series after they won the opener.
Before this year, the Rockets were 17-0 all-time after they won the first game of a series. Creaky bones, injuries and especially the Jazz prevented them from making that 18-0, however.
BLOCKBUSTER: Greg Ostertag held his own personal block party at the Delta Center Sunday afternoon, but his seven rejections weren't even a personal playoff high for him.
Utah's 7-foot-2 center stuffed the Lakers eight times last May in the Jazz's second-round clinching victory (a 98-93 overtime contest).
Ostertag had a career-high 11 blocks, including eight in the first half, against Philadelphia in early January this year. He finished the 1997-98 season 11th in the league in blocks with an average of 2.1 per game.
Ostertag's five fourth-quarter blocks Sunday, by the way, tied a Jazz playoff record.
EDDIE! EDDIE! Ostertag didn't want to talk about his free-throw shooting performance, offering only a "How in the (bleep) did I do that?" when asked about his airball shot from the charity stripe late in the fourth quarter.
So, how did he miss everything? It might be the crowd's fault. Right before he went to the line, some fans chanted "Eddie!" which could have brought back some unpleasant memories from the, let's just call it, quick-to-the-bottom-shelf-at-the-video-store movie Ostertag "acted" in with that same title a while ago.
If, like most people, you happened to miss that show, Ostertag accidentally and embarrassingly removed his game shorts along with his warm-up pants when he was put into the game during the movie.
The crowd Sunday was actually taunting Houston's Eddie Johnson by chanting his name after the ex-Jazz-killer fouled Ostertag.
BIRTHDAY BOY: Jeff Hornacek picked a good day to break out of his playoff shooting slump - Sunday was his birthday.
Hornacek, who turned 35, gave Jazz fans plenty to celebrate as he scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He had nine points in the first quarter, including one of his patented floating layups that gave the Jazz an early 11-point lead.
"He had one eye closed," said Ostertag, referring to the stitches Hornacek got above his eye after a head-on collision with Russell in Game 4. "You know, maybe he should keep that eye closed more often."
Hornacek had hit just 39 percent of his shots in the first four games of the series.
DR. BARKLEY'S DIAGNOSIS: The Round Mound certainly isn't a doctor, he just plays one in the interview room. Following Sunday's game, he speculated that John Stockton's back is bothering him more than he's letting on.
"I don't know if they are as good as they were last year. I think there is something wrong with John Stockton," Barkley said. "There is something wrong with him. I think he's probably hurt and hiding it."
SIGN LANGUAGE: Here's a sampling of other signs fans brought to the Delta Center on Sunday.
- "Olajuwon - Olajulost"
- "Pledge now - Olaju-walk-a-thon"
- "Uh-Oh" (Bill Walton was in the house)