So when do the playoffs start? After last night's suspenseless Utah Jazz-Golden State Warriors clash at the Delta Center, some playoff intensity would be welcome.
The Warriors came to town carrying all the weight of a season of turmoil and unfulfilled promise, not to mention tired legs from a game the night before in Minnesota, and it showed in a 121-102 Jazz victory.The Warriors are a sorry sight these days. Their three most experienced big guys are out with various ailments, their best healthy player is putting the finishing touches on a season-long pout, five of the 10 guys in uniform are rookies, and two of the ones that aren't are journeymen David Wood and Tim Legler.
And Legler led them in scoring Thursday.
"It was a tough night," said Utah's Karl Malone. "In a game like this, you go out and don't want to get hurt."
The Jazz's obvious advantage from the start was inside. Golden State's only healthy big guys are rookie Cliff Rozier; rookie Carlos Rogers (who wasn't supposed to play because of a sprained ankle); and rookie Donyell Marshall, who is one of those 6-foot-9 guys who prefers the perimeter to the paint.
"We don't have the strongest, biggest frontline right now, so if you don't attack us there, you're not very intelligent," said Warriors coach Bob Lanier.
The Jazz may be old, but they're not senile. Malone went to work on Rozier and Rogers, totaling 29 points and 15 boards (in 35 minutes) against their combined 10 points, six rebounds.
The Warriors' only chance of hanging with the Jazz was to fire up three-pointers. The night before, they'd drilled an NBA record 17 threes. that tactic worked for a while - they made 5 of their first 6, 8 of 14 in the first half. But when they went 0-for-5 in the third quarter, Utah pulled away for good.
"We were going out to the perimeter too much, and I think we were still thinking about last night, where we were really putting them down," Lanier said. "Tonight we just weren't hitting the shots."
Golden State actually outshot Utah for the game, 51.2 percent to 45.7, but most of that differential was due to a fourth quarter in which the Jazz looked like a bunch of guys just trying to get the game over with.
"It's tough for anybody to keep their concentration in a 25-point game, and at the end we got sloppy," said Jazz guard John Stockton.
Still, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan may have been the only person in the arena who didn't feel Utah had this game in control. His team led by 27 early in the fourth quarter, but Legler popped three three-pointers in a two-minute span to cut the lead to 17, and Sloan rushed Malone and Stockton back in to quell the uprising. The Jazz never pulled away much again, but they didn't lose ground, either.
With five minutes left and the Jazz ahead by 19, Malone signaled the bench that he wanted out, immediately after getting launched into the front row while chasing a loose ball. The Mailman said he suddenly remembered that it was late in a game against the Warriors, in another garbage-time situation, that he sprained his ankle.
"A lot of injuries that happen don't happen when you're playing hard," he said. "That was a game that turned ugly pretty quick."
Like soon after the opening tip.
There was some suspense - or something - over Tom Chambers' pursuit of 20,000 career points. Against a team with a big-guy shortage, it seemed highly possible that Chambers could reach that milestone in one game. But the Jazz's veteran forward appeared to be all-too aware of that fact, and maybe rushed a couple of shots. He ended up with seven points (2 of 8 from the field).
This game did produce some weird stats. Like the Warriors having seven guys in double figures, and shooting 51.2 percent, but losing. Like the Jazz's 20-3 free-throw margin at halftime. And like three flagrant fouls by the Warriors, who were not only tired but frustrated.
Legler poured in 18 points to lead Golden State, while five guys (too many to list here) contributed 12 each.
Stockton scored 17 in the first half en route to a 22-point, eight-assist effort. Jeff Hornacek scored 15, David Benoit 12 and Antoine Carr 10. the Jazz outrebounded the Warriors, 54-33.
The victory pulled the Jazz to within a game and a half of San Antonio in the Midwest Division race, and pulled them even with Phoenix in the Western Conference standings.
Utah next plays the Clippers, Saturday night in the Delta Center.