Jerry Sloan gave the Utah Jazz a day of rest on Sunday--and they needed it to heal bumps and bruises and to rest weary bones after the second game of their increasingly physical first-round playoff matchup against the Houston Rockets.
The series, which is knotted at 1-1 will resume Wednesday night in Houston. the fourth game in the best-of-five series will be Friday night in the Compaq Center with the do-or-die Game 5, if necessary, in the Delta Center on Sunday afternoon.Sloan, one of the most hard-nosed guards to ever play in the NBA, espects a game to be physical. He wouldn't want it any other way. He even said one of the reasons the Jazz unexpectedly lost the series opener is because they weren't aggressive enough.
But he doesn't like cheap shots--especially when they are taken against his 36-year-old point guard.
That's why the Jazz coach was livid about Charles Barkley's flagrant foul on John Stockton late in Utah's series tying victory in the Delta Center late Saturday night. Barkley, who said in a press conference during last year's Western Conference Finals that he was out to hurt Stockton, slammed into the Jazz point guard--forearm up--with 4:50 remaining in Saturday's game.
Afterward, Barkley made light of the incident, "That was a good one, don't you think?"
Sloan didn't think so. In fact, he said Barkley's foul made him "want to throw up."
"We're ruining the game of basketball with things like that," Sloan said. " I have too much respect for the game. I don't want to be a part of any of those sideshows. If they want to win it that bad (that they resort to cheap shots), they can have it."
Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek said they've come to expect incidents like Barkley's flagrant foul when they play the Rockets.
"It seems like every time we've played them and beaten them they end up doing that at the end of the game," Hornacek said. "We just have to think to ourselves that every game in this series is going to be a war."
The Jazz may know that the remainder of the series will continue to be rough, but they claim they won't be out looking for revenge.
"We need to keep our composure," Karl Malone said. "You can't get caught up in all the silly stuff that goes on out there."
After Thursday night's loss, Sloan said the Jazz needed to primarily do two things better to win; get up and down the court and be more aggressive defensively. The Jazz responded on both counts. After being outscored by 14 points in fast-break situations in Game 1, the Jazz out-scored the Rockets by 15 in Game 2. Utah was also much better on defense, holding the Rockets to 35.2 percent shooting in the second game, 11 percentage points below their rate in the opener.
Malone has led the Jazz in scoring in both games and is right at his season average of 27 ponits per outing. He's the first to admit, however, that he can do better.
"I haven't played at the level I want to play at yet," Malone said.
If Malone gets going, the Jazz should be able to win one of their next two games in the Compaq Center (the building formerly known as the Summit). Utah has won three straight there, dating back to Game 6 of last season's conference finals.
"I don't think we're going to have any letdowns like we had in the first game," said Bryon Russell.
The Rockets continue to like their chances, though.
"We still have a very positive feeling," said coach Rudy Tomjanovich. Wev'e got the home-court advantage, and now we've got to take care of business there. They're a great team. They're on a high now coming in (to Houston). We've just got to rebound."
In addition to having the home crowd, the Rockets are hoping for a little home cooking from the refs.
Officiating "is a tough job," said Houston point guard Brent Price. "Hopefully when we get on our home court maybe some of the calls will go our way."
Game 1 Rockets 103
Drexler leads Rockets with 22 points
Game 2 Jazz 105
Karl Malone leads Jazz with 29 points
Game 3 Utah at Wednesday Houston
TV: KJZZ, TNT, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4 Utah at
May 1 Houston
TV, TIME: To be determined
Game 5 Houston at
May 3 Utah
TV, TIME: To be determined