They didn't drop in as many points or log as many minutes or look as flawless as they did in Game 1, but the Utah Jazz reserves deserved just as much credit for the 99-95 Game 2 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night at the Delta Center as they received in the series-opener.
While the Jazz bench went largely unnoticed for the first three quarters on Monday night, it produced when Utah needed it most - during the last 12 minutes of the game - on both ends of the court."We know the guys on our bench can come up big at any time," said veteran Antoine Carr. "Tonight, it just took us an awful lot longer than it did on Saturday."
The Jazz backups accounted for only 17 points on the evening, but 10 of those came in the fourth quarter. They were 2-of-13 going into the fourth, but atoned by making 5-of-8 in that period.
The Laker bench, by contrast, generated 25 points off the bench, but none in the fourth.
In Saturday's rout, the Jazz bench scorched the nets for 53 points. Of course, in that one the starters blew open a huge lead, taking the pressure off of the bench players. In Game 2, the scenario was vastly different. The Jazz were chasing the Lakers throughout, and the reserves stepped up with the outcome hanging in the balance.
Trailing by one heading into the final period, coach Jerry Sloan surrounded Karl Malone with four players off the bench: Carr, Shandon Anderson, Chris Morris and Howard Eisley.
Just over two minutes into the final period, a jumper off the glass by Morris lifted the Jazz to a 76-75 advantage - part of a 9-0 run - and it was a lead they would not relinquish the remainder of the game.
Morris' shot gave the Jazz their first lead since midway through the first period, when they were up 11-8.
"We knew we'd get on a roll in the fourth quarter," said Carr, "one way or another."
Arguably the biggest shot of all belonged to the Big Dawg, whose 18-footer with 1:00 left came on a pick-and-roll play with Stockton. Carr's impersonation of Malone worked perfectly and his basket opened up a 96-93 edge for the Jazz.
"They tried to stop John Stockton," said Carr, "and they left me open." Wide open. It was his only field goal of the game.
But Carr wasn't done. On the Lakers' next possession, he rebounded Shaquille O'Neal's miss with 45 seconds remaining. From there, the Jazz simply sunk their foul shots to seal the victory and take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"We had contributions by a lot of people tonight," said John Stockton, who finished with 22 points. "I thought our defense, particularly with the second group in there early in the fourth quarter, made a huge difference.
"We don't care who's the hero," he continued. "Tonight it's Antoine, maybe Bryon Russell or some other guys. We just want to win the game. We don't care who gets the credit. We don't care who gets the blame."
Though he didn't score, Eisley ensured that the Jazz didn't miss a beat while Stockton sat out. Anderson, whose pair of fourth- quarter baskets kept the Lakers at bay, led all Jazz reserves with eight points while Morris finished with five.
Morris acknowledges the bench didn't match its performance in Game 2 but says it did what it was needed to. "We didn't come out as well as that first game," said Morris. "You can have a great game, but it's tough to do twice in a row. We just stayed aggressive, and we kept our focus down the stretch. We didn't back down."