Greg Foster started the NBA Finals off as the Jazz's starting center. Two games later he was replaced by Greg Ostertag. Next it was Adam Keefe's turn.
The Big Dawg was finally thrown the bone Friday night.It wasn't an official start, of course. Keefe actually began Game 5, but Antoine Carr came out of the locker room after halftime as the starting middle man for the most important half of Jazz basketball this season.
"Antoine came and played with confidence, having not been on the floor a lot," said John Stockton of Carr who played a scoreless three minutes in the first half. " played with confidence, found open shots, and made some big clutch shots when their defense was pressuring us."
Carr responded to his second-half start by scoring four points in the third and eight in the fourth en route to 12 of the biggest points in his four years with the franchise. Without his efforts, Karl Malone's huge 39-point outing would have been lost in Chicago's sixth celebration this decade.
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"They finally found someone off the bench that could give them a lift," said Chicago coach Phil Jackson. "And he was really the difference in the ballgame tonight, outside of Malone. It was a tremendous effort by him."
Utah coach Jerry Sloan said Carr started mostly because he is instant offense, well, when his aim is on. And the Jazz appeared in dire straits after scoring just 30 points in the first half. But getting an offensive boost wasn't his only motivation to start him.
"No. 1 he can catch the ball," Sloan said, only half-jokingly mocking Utah's other butter-fingered centers who contributed to the Jazz's 13 halftime turnovers.
He can shoot the ball, too.
Carr opened the third quarter with back-to-back buckets, including an inside jumper and a tip-in, to help the Jazz pull even with the Bulls after having trailed by six at the half.
He didn't bark again until it counted most - late in the game.
Carr scored back-to-back baskets for a second time midway through the fourth quarter to help the Jazz maintain a five-point lead.
He had a shot blocked with three-and-a-half minutes left, but he heaved up another jumper to push the lead to seven , 78-71. The swisher from the top of the key came with just under two minutes remaining and time running out on the shot clock.
"He made a tough shot with the buzzer getting ready to sound," said Stockton. "Hopefully he's able to do the same thing Sunday."
After the Bulls made a late run - as everybody knew they would, only cause they always do - Carr was sent to the line for a pair of free-throw shots with 10.4 seconds left. You could see the confidence beaming from his eyes behind his darkened sunglasses as he calmly drilled both attempts to up the lead to 82-78.