ISN'T IT AMAZING what four days and a change of venue can do for an NBA playoff series?
Suddenly, Bryon Russell looks like a Dream Team candidate, and Shawn Kemp is 19 years old again.Suddenly, the Sonics' collective IQ is about the same as Frank Brickowski's shoe size.
Suddenly, it's the Jazz who are winning by 20 points.
Suddenly, the referees are acting like they're the show.
Well, not everything changed.
Suddenly, the Jazz are looking for - huh, boy - respect. Get in line. Nowadays, when the going gets tough, the tough . . . talk about lack of respect. Or the media talks about it for them. From here to the Super Bowl to the Final Four, it's a recurring theme, but the Jazz at least struck a blow for originality. During a timeout, they dragged Rodney Dangerfield himself out of the stands to do a brief monologue that not even the players could resist watching.
It's probably safe to say that after Friday's game, the Jazz have everyone's respect, so let's hope they drop the whole thing.
Trailing two games to none, the Jazz had to have this one, and they played like it in a game that looked more like a playground rumble than a meeting of two of pro basketball's elite teams.
Russell - where was he during the regular season? - played 39 minutes and collected 24 points and 10 rebounds. You could almost imagine David Benoit calling his agent on a cell phone from the bench.
Then there was Jeff Hornacek, who played 42 minutes and collected 28 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. He filled in nicely while John Stockton (2-of-9 shooting, seven points, six assists) was trying to decide what to do about the pain in his neck - Gary Payton.
Coach Jerry Sloan said Hornacek got himself ready to play because he didn't like to be embarrassed, as the Jazz were in Seattle. Sloan couldn't remember the last time Hornacek played so many minutes, but he knew a hot hand when he saw one.
"I just left him on the floor," he said. "It looked like he was the guy making his shots."
So was Malone, who had 28 points and 18 rebounds. So what else is new? Well, glad you asked. Kemp had 10 points and 8 turnovers.
The Jazz probably weren't so good as the Sonics were bad. Even Sloan refused to take credit for the Sonics' 26 turnovers. Basically, he said the Sonics would have committed a lot of them even if he had pulled his entire team off the floor.
There are some things you just can't coach.
But the Jazz did hustle and were very active. They were almost as active as the referees.
The Jazz definitely had to share the stage with the officials, who very nearly hyperventilated from blowing their whistles so often. Maybe it was because Commissioner David Stern was in the building. Maybe it was because they hadn't seen this much bump and grind since Dick Clark. Or maybe it was because they read newspapers and saw all the public sniping about illegal defenses. Whatever it was, the referees had a very busy night.
They called nine illegal defenses - six against the Jazz. They made more traveling calls than Charles Kuralt. Offensive fouls and three seconds were two other favorites. And ticky foul calls.
"To have 26 turnovers, with probably 10 of them offensive fouls, is unbelievable," said Seattle's Nate McMillan.
Seattle coach George Karl, having apparently already said too much about officiating in recent weeks, declined to comment.
Not that local fans were complaining about the hyperactive officials - after all, the Jazz had their way - but the referees nearly stole the show. Which was too bad, since there also were two pretty good basketball teams on the floor.
It was like going to see "The Phantom of the Opera" and hearing the ushers singing the lead. Who invited these guys?
It was difficult to tell which produced more carbon dioxide - the referees and their whistles or the thousands of balloons that fans popped before the game. It had the pace of a baseball game. Nearly every trip up the floor resulted in a whistle and a stoppage of play. No wonder it took nearly 21/2 hours to play the game.
But the Jazz didn't mind. Finally, they got a victory over the Sonics.