It was an impressive victory for the Utah Jazz Wednesday night in the Delta Center. They dominated the Patrick Ewing-less New York Knicks, 94-78, in a game that wasn't near as close as the final margin indicates.
But the loss suffered by Utah was much more impressive. The Jazz, for the first time in their 24-year existence, thought they'd landed themselves a center who can consistently score in the low post on Monday night.Then the big one - 6-11 Rony Seikaly - got away.
Seikaly, following a disturbing recent trend in the NBA, simply refused to show up after being traded. The deadline to report to the Jazz was 8 p.m. on Wednesday. The Jazz felt their only acceptable recourse was to void Monday's deal that sent Greg Foster, Chris Morris and a draft pick to Orlando for Seikaly.
So, after a two-day trip to Disney World, Foster and Morris are on their way back to Salt Lake City Thursday - most likely packing some hurt feelings with them, however.
The hopes of Seikaly coming to Utah were pretty much gone before the Jazz tipped off against New York, although it wouldn't become official until near the end of the game. Still, the Jazz managed to keep enough focus on the battle at hand to dominate the Knicks in front of a national cable audience.
Utah, winners of six straight, improved to 36-15 and a game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs atop the Midwest Division. The Knicks fell to 29-22.
"For the most part, we played hard and played with a great deal of concentration," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.
Utah scored the first nine points of the game and never trailed. The Knicks pulled to within a bucket at the end of the first quarter, at 21-19. From there, however, it was all Jazz.
Utah went on a 21-4 run to open the second quarter to take a 42-23 advantage. Jazz forward Bryon Russell scored eight points during the stretch - which included a pair of three-pointers.
By halftime the lead was 26 points, 56-30, and game was all but over.
"This was one of our better defensive games," said Karl Malone. "In the first half we really got after them. We were beating them to the spots."
Utah led by as many as 34 points in the third quarter before calling off the dogs. The Knicks beat the Jazz by 14 in the final period and still lost by 16.
"They just out-classed us tonight," said Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy.
The Knicks were on the second game of a back-to-back, which was pointed out by a few players and even Sloan, but Malone certainly didn't have any sympathy for them.
"Everybody will probably talk about them playing last night but, in this business, it happens like that," said Malone.
The Mailman, who was named as the NBA Player of the Week on Wednesday, finished with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds in just 27 minutes of play. He's been on a roll since the All-Star break. He averaged 31.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, five assists and two steals in helping the Jazz to a 3-0 record last week.
Utah's other top players, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek, played only 22 and 27 minutes respectively, well below their season averages.
"We were fortunate that the score got up there the way it did and that we were able to maintain control without a serious threat," said Adam Keefe, who scored 13 points with 12 rebounds. "It was nice that we were able to rest some of our guys."
Shandon Anderson added 13 points, while Russell scored 12 and Hornacek netted 11.
The Knicks, who are a different, less-intimidating team without the injured Ewing, were led by Allan Houston's 13 points.
Sloan gave the Jazz today off from practice. Foster and Morris will be back for the Jazz when they play San Antonio in the Alamo City on Saturday in a showdown pitting the top two teams in the Midwest Division.