The blowout was so complete it was historically stunning.
The Utah Jazz broke the record for fewest points in an NBA game since the inception of the shot clock as they were humbled 96-54 by the Chicago Bulls on Sunday in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. The wretched, sickly effort by the Jazz left them walking off the court appearing to have their confidence completely shattered.The Bulls had the highest margin of victory in NBA Finals history and actually were doubled over laughing as the fourth quarter was being played out.
Utah's 54 points broke the NBA record of 55 set earlier this season by the Indiana Pacers and was 17 fewer than the Finals record of 71 by Fort Wayne in 1955 and Boston in 1981.
The victory gave Chicago a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, with Game 4 set for Wednesday night.
That will give the Jazz two full days to ponder their plight and try to figure out how they could become so hideous so quickly.
And this time, they can't blame Karl Malone.
After shooting 14-for-41 over the first two games of the series, Malone made his first six shots and finished 8-for-11 for 22 points.
But the rest of the team shot a combined 13-for-59, with Howard Eisley (0-for-6), Bryon Russell, Greg Ostertag (1-for-7 each) and Jacque Vaughn (0-for-6) among the biggest offenders.
The Jazz also gave a new meaning to the term sloppy, finding every way imaginable to turn the ball over. Utah, which had 13 turnovers in Game 1 and 20 in Game 2, had 26 turnovers this time - including seven by Malone and five by John Stockton - which led to 22 Chicago points.
The Bulls got bigger-than-usual contributions from Ron Harper and Scott Burrell and 24 points out of Michael Jordan. Toni Kukoc added 16 points, Scottie Pippen and Burrell had 10 each and every player on the team scored at least two.
It was so one-sided that Jordan amused himself during a fourth-quarter timeout by clowning with courtside reporters and watching the scoreboard video screen as fans did a limbo dance.Yes, it was that much of a laugher.
Malone sat out the entire fourth, just like Jordan, and watched Chicago go ahead by as many as 42 as the Bulls topped the old record margin of 35 by the Washington Bullets against Seattle in 1978.
Chicago also surpassed its own team record of a 33-point margin of victory in Game 1 of the 1992 Finals against Portland.
The Bulls broke this one open with a pair of first-half runs, a 12-0 spurt bridging the first and second quarters and a 12-2 run to close the first half that gave Chicago a 49-31 halftime lead.
So complete was Utah's breakdown that the Jazz allowed the Bulls to make two steals in the final six seconds of the second quarter.
Kukoc hit a corner jumper to make it 47-31, and Burrell swiped the inbounds pass. He missed a jumper and the Jazz rebounded, but Harper quickly stole the ball again and Burrell went to the free throw line for two more points after Stockton committed a loose-ball foul with 0.3 seconds left.
The lead reached 23 early in the third, 28 late in the third and was at least 30 for most of the fourth.
With 2:21 left, Jud Buechler's second 3-pointer of the night gave the Bulls a 40-point lead.
Malone hit Utah's first five shots and scored his team's first 10 points en route to shooting 6-for-6 for the quarter. But his teammates combined to shoot 1-for-16 - including 0-for-4s for Russell, Ostertag and Jeff Hornacek - and the Bulls closed the quarter with a 8-0 run to lead 17-14 going into the second quarter.
Pippen scored the next two baskets to extend the run to 12-0, and the Bulls would go ahead by a dozen points twice in the quarter - the second time at 41-29 on a fastbreak layup by Kukoc following Malone's first miss - an airball baby hook.
Utah's frustration started boiling over, from Malone vehemently arguing on offensive foul that negated his seventh straight basket to coach Jerry Sloan going ballistic as the referees called 14 of the first 20 fouls on his team.
By the end, all the Jazz could do was sit quietly on the bench and wallow in their misery as Chicago won its seventh straight home game in the Finals and dropped Utah to 4-3 on the road in this year's playoffs.
Notes: Phil Jackson coached his 149th playoff game, moving ahead of Lenny Wilkens for third place on the career list. ... Ostertag replaced Greg Foster in Utah's starting lineup. It was Ostertag's first start since Feb. 10. ... Eddie Vedder of the band Pearl Jam sang the national anthem. ... Harper yelled "Rogaine" at Malone while he was shooting free throws in the second quarter, a reference to the TV ad about the hair-restoration drug that features Malone.