In the aftermath of their 35-point loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers vowed to make amends in Game 2.
And, aside from losing - again - the Lakers did just that.They jumped all over the Jazz from the outset, leading by as many as nine points in the first quarter.
"They came out aggressive today, that was the difference," said Utah forward Chris Morris.
The Jazz, meanwhile, avoided getting caught in the complacency trap while preparing for Monday's battle. Instead, they simply maintained their respect for the Lakers and went back to work. And it paid off in the form of a 99-95 win.
"We know how we feel after games like that," said John Stockton, referring to the Lakers, but no doubt recalling Utah's horrific 86-64 loss to San Antonio in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semis. "We've been in some of those and you come back hungry. You want to play so well the next night. I think that everybody realized that. Everybody's concentration was dead on in practice (Sunday) and getting ready for the game tonight. That's really crucial against a team like this."
Now up 2-0, history is on the side of the Jazz. Only seven times has a team come back to win a best-of-seven series down 2-zip (the Lakers are one of them, having accomplished the feat in 1969). No team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit.
TRADING PLACES?: While Malone was somewhat disappointed he is no longer the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, he felt Michael Jordan would win the award in 1998.
"I think it was predetermined that I wouldn't get it," he said. "It didn't hurt that bad."
Malone adds he has his eyes trained on a much bigger prize. "I would like to switch with Michael this year. He won the Big One (the NBA title) last year. That's what I want to do this year."
KILLING 'EM SOFTLY: Jeff Hornacek scored a quiet 11 points for the Jazz, hitting only 2-of-7 shots from the field. In Game 1, he had just one point.
Though conspicuously absent for much of this series to date, Hornacek was involved in two memorable plays in Game 2.
One was his first, and only, 3-pointer in the series. That came with 2.9 seconds left in the first quarter, which cut the Laker lead to 29-24.
In the third quarter, he missed a 3, grabbed the rebound and fed Malone for a hammer dunk. While making the pass, he was knocked to the floor and appeared to receive a giant Reebok in the face, courtesy of Shaquille O'Neal. But no foul was called.
Hornacek also made both of his free throws with 24.5 seconds left in the game, giving the Jazz a 98-93 lead.
SHAQ DELIVERS: Shaquille O'Neal warned that he was going to throw his elbows after he stunk up the Delta Center in Game 1. Shaq waited until the second half before letting his arms flail, and Antoine Carr was seeing stars after he did.
"I'm definitely upset. It was pretty obvious that it was an elbow," said Carr, who staggered after being hit by Shaq. "He lowered his shoulder earlier in the game and I asked the referee to look at it. But, hey, they have a tough job. It's not easy to make those calls in such a big game. I'm not upset with them at all."
TV TIMEOUT: With 24.5 seconds remaining and the Jazz clinging to a three-point lead, there were, no doubt, fans across the state who couldn't bear to watch as Jeff Hornacek took the first of two free throws.
Those who averted their eyes needn't have bothered. The normally steady KJZZ-Ch. 14 blew it big time, going to a shot of the Jazz bench and missing Hornacek's free throw altogether.
On occasion, the Jazz have successfully employed a "hack-Shaq" defensive strategy to contain L.A.'s big man. Here's how the trio of Jazz centers utilized their fouls on the Lakers' center of attention Monday night.
Players Min. Fouls Fouls against Shaq
Foster 16 4 2
Ostertag 17 3 2
Carr 14 4 3
Shaq O'Neal's Elbow Room!
How many times the big fella sent his "future" Hall of Fame elbows on a search and destroy mission.
Game 2 - 1
Karl Malone's Kick Count!
Number of times the mailman raised his leg with intent to "maim".
Game 2 - 2