If the rest of the trip is anything like this, things could really turn crazy by the end of the week. The Jazz's latest tour opened Monday night in Miami Arena, where they followed Janet Jackson's concert appearance and offered a performance with a little of everything.
In between Mike Brown's daily storytelling on the team bus ride to the arena and Glen Rice's winning shot for Miami (105-104) after a scrambled play just before the horn, the Jazz staged the most goofy game of the season. Karl Malone played with the crowd and later offered to trade jobs with a radio reporter. Coach Jerry Sloan screamed at anyone in range, including a ballboy who unsuspectingly offered him a cup of water, and complained that no foul was called on his team at the end. The Jazz scored 13-straight points in the fourth quarter, only to lose a nine-point lead.Otherwise, this was just another game.
While losing a seven-game winning streak as they try to recover at Orlando Wednesday, the Jazz (41-17) stayed three games ahead of San Antonio, a homecourt loser to Houston Monday.
The Jazz seemed to have survived the Miami visit when Thurl Bailey blocked Rony Seikaly's shot and John Stockton shook off a poor shooting game with a jumper for a four-point lead in the last 35 seconds. Just five seconds later, the Heat's Kevin Edwards drilled a 3-pointer - even though the Jazz could have fouled before the shot without penalty, forcing the Heat to in-bound the ball and use more time.
On the Jazz's last possession, Stockton drove into traffic and missed, with Miami starting a fast break. "I couldn't even tell you for sure if there was contact," Stockton said later.
Contact yes, foul-call no - and on the next sequence, the Jazz wish they'd have fouled somebody. Miami rookie Scott Haffner missed from the left corner, but Sherman Douglas rebounded as the Jazz's Darrell Griffith and Mike Brown tried to foul to allow them to set up defensively.
"I should have grabbed him," Griffith said.
"I guess you've got to do a better job to get a call," noted Sloan.
As the clock wound down, Douglas dribbled briefly toward the lane and passed back. "I was screaming, and I knew he heard me," Rice said. Rice delivered from 20 feet out, straight away - almost like Malone's winning shot against the Lakers recently.
As Rice went up, Coach Ron Rothstein cringed, expecting the horn. "I was just standing there, waiting and listening," he said.
Rice easily beat the horn, connecting on the first game-ending shot of his basketball career.
The Jazz could only wonder how this one escaped them - and so much for winning 60 games.
"It was totally embarrassing, the way we started the game," Malone said. "It's a (bleeping) shame the way we came out . . . forget the last-second shot and all that other stuff."
Malone had 32 points and 15 rebounds but scored only two in the fourth quarter after messing with the crowd. Once, while on defense, he waved his arms to exhort chants of "A.C. Green," referring to the Laker forward who started last month's NBA All-Star Game in Miami.
After the game, Malone barked at an interviewer, charging him with asking silly questions. "I wish one day you could switch seats with me and go out and play," Malone said. "That's my dream. That's my fantasy."
In real life, Malone had seven turnovers and played distractedly, even before the interplay with the crowd. Saving a rebound on the baseline in the first half, he set up a Miami basket. With the Jazz rallying in the third quarter, he passed ahead in the lane to Bobby Hansen, which was fine except Hansen was already out of bounds.
Other Jazzmen struggled, with shooting.
Did the rave reviews on Thurl Bailey's return come too soon? Bailey shot 3 of 10, making him 7 of 23 in two games. Stockton was an unusual 5 of 17, managing 21 points and 13 assists.
Seikaly scored 25, Edwards 24 and Douglas 22, making Rice (10) even more unlikely to win the game.
Down 57-48 at the half, the Jazz made an early third-quarter charge, only to fade and trail by 14. With Stockton resting, Delaney Rudd joined in a 13-2 run that cut the lead to one - eventually, the Heat entered the fourth quarter with an 82-78 lead.
Again, the Jazz made a move. With the Heat taking one shot and losing five turnovers in six trips, the Jazz scored 13 straight with help from Griffith and led 97-88. Douglas answered with six points, but Malone hit a turnaround shot and Bailey made two free throws. Having righted themselves, the Jazz proceeded to find a way to lose.
We'll see what they come up with the rest of the week.
JAZZ NOTES: In the first quarter, Sloan yanked Bobby Hansen immediately after a 3-point try. Hansen has made 1 of his last 13 and 6 of his last 42 attempts. Griffith, who had made 13 of 24 shots, missed all four tries. Stockton, third in the NBA in 3-point shooting, missed his three atempts. Rudd made the Jazz's only 3-pointer . . . Malone (6 of 6) has tried just 28 free throws in four games.