Blowing a 16-point lead at home to one of the worst - at least record-wise - teams in the NBA can give a coach a massive headache.
Just ask Jerry Sloan.Wednesday morning - just 12 hours after the Jazz avoided a complete choke job by edging the Philadelphia 76ers in overtime after giving up a huge, fourth-quarter advantage - Sloan called in sick with a migraine headache.
OK, maybe it was only a coincidence. Still, it would be easy to see why the late-game collapse could cause the Jazz coach some concern. It was reminiscent of the team's problems early this year when they were routinely beaten in the final quarter.
Sloan said his team quit executing on offense, quit defending and started "hanging out" when the Sixers rallied to out-score the Jazz 21-5 in the final 91/2 minutes of regulation on Tuesday night.
With Sloan not feeling well Wednesday morning, longtime assistant Phil Johnson led the Jazz through a short workout at Westminster College in preparation for tonight's home game against the 15-18 Milwaukee Bucks.
The Jazz had a closed-door team meeting with Bob Dandridge, a honcho from the players' union, after Wednesday's practice. The players declined to talk about the specifics of the meeting, but it stands to reason that the possibility of the owners tearing up the current collective bargaining agreement at the end of this year and instigating a lockout was one of the topics of discussion.
Tonight's game will be the second half of a back-to-back for the Bucks, who lost Wednesday night at the Forum to the Lakers, 114-102. Utah, now 21-11, needs to win to keep pace in the Midwest Division with the San Antonio Spurs, who won their 12th game in 13 tries Wednesday to improve to 22-11.
The Bucks "are similar to Philadelphia in a lot of ways, only they've had a better record from the start," Johnson said. "They have some very talented players and are playing well right now."
Johnson is a former NBA coach of the year when he was with the Kings. He's coached in the league for 26 seasons now, so he's seen a lot of things. But he said he'd never seen a three-way trade help all of the clubs involved - until this year. Just before the season Milwaukee sent Vin Baker to Seattle, Cleveland sent Terrell Brandon and Tyrone Hill to Milwaukee and Seattle sent Shawn Kemp to Cleveland. It certainly appears that all three teams have benefited.
Brandon gives the Bucks one of the top point guards in the league. With Brandon and Ray Allen, who is just in his second season, Milwaukee has one of the best young backcourts around.
Tonight's game will also feature "The Big Dawg" (Utah's Antoine Carr) against "The Big Dog" (Milwaukee's Glenn Robinson). Robinson is having an all-star-like year for the Bucks. He had a streak of 12 consecutive 20-point games snapped Wednesday night against the Lakers, however, when he was held to 13 points in the loss. In the four games before Wednesday night, Robinson scored 135 points (33.8 per outing).
Carr, who has missed the past two games due to a strained right hamstring, worked out with the Jazz on Wednesday and might play tonight. Carr started the eight games before his injury, but will likely come off the bench tonight if he plays. Greg Ostertag, who had strung three strong games together, is expected to start again at center.
In other Jazz news, Karl Malone will surpass John Havlicek to move into eighth on the NBA's all-time scoring list sometime tonight, probably in the first quarter. He needs just three points.