Watching the Utah Jazz these days can be a truly strange experience. You may end up leaving halfway through the fourth quarter, but who's to say the reason? One night it's because the Jazz are hopelessly kicking the ball around, on their their way to yet another loss. The next night they're wrapping things up with a flourish of breakaway layups and winning with room to spare.
A day after losing embarrassingly to the Denver Nuggets at McNichols Arena, the Jazz roared back to wipe out Indiana 119-101 at the Delta Center, Tuesday night. Did someone say slump? Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has to be wondering what his team ate for lunch.For the first time in months, the Jazz bench put up some truly significant numbers - 63 points in all. Mike Brown led the charge, thundering around inside and coming up with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Tyrone Corbin was impressive with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Close behind was recently converted substitute Jeff Is-It-Too-Late-To-Get-The-SixthMan-Award Malone, with 18 points. Not unimportant were eight points tossed in by Larry Krystkowiak.
"The bench gave us a tremendous lift. They kept the flow going. Every loose ball seemed to have our name on it," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.
The bench played so well that the Mailman spent all but two minutes of the fourth quarter watching from the sidelines. Brown and Krystkowiak were so busy was cracking heads and rattling bones right up to the end, there was no place for the Mailman to return.
So how does he like riding the bench late in the game? "As long as we're winning, that's okay," said the Mailman. "But if we're losing? Hell no."
After all the problems the Jazz have had in the last 21/2 months, none was more burdensome to Sloan than inconsistency off the bench. "It seems like every time we had one hole plugged up, another one breaks open," said Sloan. "We haven't had all the guys do the job defensively."
But this time it was different.
Holding tightly to a precarious two-point lead early in the second quarter, the Jazz suddenly took hold. Brown rumbled up to the top of the key and sank a level shot, putting the Jazz lead up to four. Soon to follow was a 15-foot basket by Tyrone Corbin, who has been coming off the bench for the last eight games.
Next, Brown went into one of those rare phases where everything works out right. He made two free throws, then scored a pair of baskets to put the Jazz up 44-36. Though the Pacers managed to cut the Jazz's lead to 53-48 at the half, the die was cast. The Jazz were sending everyone but the food services people at the Pacers.
Three Jazz players registered steals - two off the bench - as they built the lead. Twenty-one of the team's 25 points in the period came off the bench. "I've always said if we can get everyone playing as well as they can . . . well, it's still a player's game," continued Sloan. "They just have to make it up in their minds how much embarrassment they want to obtain. If not, then they'll continue to be embarrassed."
But for once the Jazz were the embarrassors, not the embarrassees. With the starters back in to begin the third quarter, the Jazz built their lead to eight. Though they eventually fell behind by two, they raced back ahead to hold an 80-76 lead going into the final period.
With the subs in to start the fourth quarter - Brown, Krystkowiak, Corbin, Jeff Malone and Jay Humphries - the Jazz put the game out of reach. They scored 11 unanswered points to start the fourth quarter - six by Malone - to lead 91-76. The Pacers never got closer than 14 behind and once trailed by 23.
Meanwhile, while the subs rolled, the starters sat. Benoit, the Mailman and John Stoctkon got in only two minutes apiece, while Mark Eaton sat out the entire period. The only starter to play significant minutes in the last period was Humpries, with seven.
John Stockton's 23 points led the Jazz, while the Mailman settled for 16 points in 32 minutes.
"We've talked about the ineffectiveness of the team for so many weeks now. I thought we could come out with the idea of playing defense first and offense second," said Sloan. "When all is said and done, it's obvious what we've got to do to win."
The overall effort served to muffle the 33-point performance by Indiana's Reggie Miller.
With Indiana gone, the Jazz now have Wednesday to wonder if the uprising in the Delta Center was only a temporary blip on the screen, as was last week's win over Detroit. Thursday the Jazz host the New York Knicks.
"We've got to come out and not let people run over us," said Sloan, referring to the last time the Jazz played the Knicks (losing 125-111). "Sometimes in life when you get knocked down you either lay there or you get up and fight."
GAME NOTES: Tyrone Corbin, who injured his right shoulder in Monday's game at Denver, iced it again after Tuesday's game against the Pacers. He said he won't miss any play . . . The Jazz took Wednesday off practice to rest up for the game against the Knicks . . . The bench registered all four Jazz blocks for the game.