FOR YEARS, PEOPLE have called the Utah Jazz a boring basketball team. Pick and roll, pick and roll, pick and roll. Stockton to Malone, Stockton to Malone, and so on.
The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, are the flashy kids destined, some say, to be the NBA's next great team.So far in the Western Conference finals, the boring old Jazz have had it all over the flamboyant young Lakers, with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series heading into Friday's Game 3 at the Forum.
After losing two in Salt Lake City, the Lakers have gained a grudging admiration for the Jazz's ability and style.
"They might not be exciting to write about," the Lakers' Rick Fox said. "They're not a flashy team like we are. We're exciting to watch. They just play very smart, effective basketball."
The Lakers admit they may have had too much swagger as they entered the conference finals after dominating Seattle in the second round.
JOHN STOCKTON CAN'T score like he once did. He doesn't lead the league in assists anymore. And his body won't allow him play the major minutes that he once handled so easily.
Age has affected his game.
The Los Angeles Lakers have not.
Stockton, 36, is the reason the Utah Jazz hold a 2-0 lead against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
In a series with an old-against-bold theme, Stockton's substance has been beating the Lakers' superior style.
THE UTAH JAZZ clung to a 92-90 lead with just over two minutes remaining on Monday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals against the Lakers when the crowd of 19,911 rose to its feet and produced a deafening roar that rocked the Delta Center.
During this moment of truth, Shaquille O'Neal bellowed out defensive instructions in his deep, baritone voice to teammate Derek Fisher. Though he was just a few feet away and with the Laker bench screaming as well, Fisher couldn't hear O'Neal over the din.
Seconds later, John Stockton waltzed in for a layup, and the crowd nearly blew the roof off the building. It is because of these delirious Utah fans that the Jazz can make their home a torture chamber for an opponent.
PICK-AND-ROLL U. is still dissecting Run-and-Gun State, one possession at a time.
Like someone bracing for a natural disaster, Nick Van Exel knew the warning signs. He studied tapes of John Stockton and Utah's lethal screen and roll. But when the time came to defend against one of the most basic plays in basketball on Monday, Van Exel's mind and body betrayed him.
THE WESTERN CONFERENCE finals began with hope and promise. The Lakers, it seemed, were poised to wake up the echoes. Ten years removed from an NBA title, they prepared to stake their claim as inheritors of the Showtime legacy.
Even Magic Johnson gave his blessing. . . .
Well, they're still talking. But the conversation has changed dramatically.
After two games, the Lakers indeed are following in history's footsteps. Alas, this is a path they don't want to follow.
The Orange County