No offense to Donny Osmond and Wilford Brimley, but the Delta Center - while one of the toughest and loudest places to play in the NBA - can't compare to the Great Western Forum when it comes to star power.
Jack Nicholson is as good as it gets when it comes to Los Angeles Lakers fans. But he's far from being the only major celebrity on hand during a given game. From Leonard DiCaprio - teen heart-throb/star of that little movie about a sinking ship - to super-model Tyra Banks the Lakers tend to have dozens of stars cheering them on.But to the Utah Jazz, who play the first of two consecutive games in the Forum on Friday night at 8 p.m., it's just another building.
"Every place you go on the road is hostile," said Karl Malone after practice at Westminster College Wednesday. "You've seen one arena you've seen them all, just in different colors. The fans are rowdy (in the Forum), but they're rowdy everywhere, so you just kind of block them out. . . . You don't go there to look who's courtside. You go there to play the game."
"We haven't won very many games there," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan of the Forum. But he hardly attributes that to the arena or the star-studded fans.
"They've had good teams. It's hard to beat good teams wherever you play them."
Nicholson has had a front-row seat near the visitor's bench for years. He was there 10 years ago when the then-upstart Jazz pushed the defending NBA champion Lakers - with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and Co. - to seven games in the conference semifinals.
Despite being in close proximity to Nicholson dozens of times over the past 13 years, Malone has had very little conversation with the multiple Oscar winner.
"I just watch his movies," said Malone. "I don't talk to him much."
Utah leads the conference finals 2-0, but the Lakers can even up the best-of-seven series with a pair of home wins. Their coach, Del Harris, has already predicted that the Lakers will hold serve on Friday and Sunday and send the series back to Salt Lake knotted at 2-2.
The Jazz, meanwhile, know that a split in the Forum would mean they could finish the series off at home in Game 5. But they are well aware that they've tended to play poorly in the third games on the road. In fact, they've lost by lopsided scores in third games last year to the Lakers and Rockets and this year to the Rockets and Spurs.
"The team that has been at home to start the third game has had more intensity," said Sloan. "That's been the biggest thing. . . . Our guys will just have to get themselves ready a little bit more."
Only seven times in NBA history has a team lost a best-of-seven series after taking a 2-0 lead. But to hear Sloan talk, the Jazz are still major underdogs in this series. The Jazz, if you believe Sloan, may have just been fortunate to win eight of their last nine playoff games.
"I don't think we're that good of a defensive team," Sloan told the assembled media on Wednesday. "We don't block that many shots. Teams that want to go inside usually go inside. . . . If you look at the teams we've played, I don't think they've shot the ball extremely well. I don't know if that's our defense or not."
One Jazzman who didn't play particularly well in the first two games against the Lakers was guard Jeff Hornacek. He was the team's second-leading scorer during the regular season and through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but he has managed only a grand total of 12 points in the two games against L.A. One of the league's top outside shooters, Hornacek has made just 2-of-10 shots from the field.
Talk coming out of Los Angeles is that the Lakers might try to use Eddie Jones, perhaps the team's top defender, on John Stockton instead of on Hornacek for Game 3. That would leave a point guard - either Derek Fisher or Nick Van Exel - to guard Hornacek.
For his part, Sloan says he's not concerned by Hornacek's slow start offensively this series.
"Everybody worries about how many points a guy scores. All I worry about is who wins," said Sloan.
And the Jazz have won twice against the Lakers. Two more, and they'll return to the NBA Finals.