It wasn't all bad for the Utah Jazz on Sunday evening in the United Center. Karl Malone finally found his jump shot and . . .
Well, it was all bad with the exception of Malone's M.I.A. jumper being located early in the first quarter. Take away Malone, and the Jazz looked like they were doing their best Denver Nuggets impersonation out there.Actually, that's not really fair - to the Nuggets. Despite all their woes, the Nuggets never had as tough a time scoring as the Jazz did on Sunday.
No team ever has, in fact.
The Jazz were all about shattering records on Sunday. But they were all of the dubious kind in Utah's 96-54 embarrassment in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. The 42-point victory gave the Chicago Bulls a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
How bad was it? The 54 points scored by the Jazz were the fewest ever in the Finals. And it was the fewest scored in a playoff game. In fact, it was the fewest points scored in any NBA game since the institution of a shot clock in 1954, "besting" the 55 points the Indiana Pacers managed in a game against the San Antonio Spurs last March. It was a full 17 points fewer than the previous low in the Finals.
To put it in perspective, the Jazz would have had to play an extra quarter-and-a-half at their pace on Sunday to score 71 points, which had been the previous Finals low dating back to 1955 when Fort Wayne edged Syracuse, 74-71.
So the Jazz shattered a 43-year-old Finals record, setting the bar so low that it may never be duplicated.
This from a team that until recently had won seven straight playoff games and 11 of 12.
Despite making league history, the Jazz weren't patting themselves on the back in the post-game locker room.
"We just laid down," said Adam Keefe. "This will go down in Chicago history with the other big massacres, like the Valentine's Day Massacre and all the rest of them. It was a sick effort on our part."
At the same time, it was a brilliant defensive effort on the part of the Bulls, especially Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Ron Harper and, yes, even Dennis Rodman. Chicago limited the Jazz to 30 percent shooting as a team while forcing 26 turnovers - an all-time Jazz franchise high in the playoffs.
"We couldn't have beaten this team today, probably, if we'd had everybody play extremely well," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, "because of how quick they were and as alive as they were defensively. But still in all, we'd didn't put up much of a fight and I'm very disappointed in that."
Actually, it didn't start out that badly for the Jazz. With Malone making his first six shots - four of them jumpers from the outside - Utah opened up a 14-9 lead with 3:32 to play in the first quarter.
1998 NBA Finals
Jazz establish NBA mark for scoring futility