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IT WASN'T A season finale. It just looked like one. Guest stars included Dave Stockton, Sam Malone, Jodie Foster, Gillian Anderson, Nipsey Russell and Morris The Cat. NBC presented the Utah Jazz in ways you've never seen them before.

Watching Game 3 of the NBA Finals was like watching someone have their gall bladder removed. It wasn't nearly as painful for the victim. When Jerry Sloan was handed the box score of this 96-54 episode of hemophilia, he squinted through his glasses."This is actually the score?" he asked. "I thought they scored 196."

He did not question the authenticity of the 54, which was the lowest number of points scored in any NBA game played since the arrival of the 24-second clock in 1954. That's playoffs, regular season, home, road, with or without Marv Albert on the mike, forever and ever, amen. The 42-point loss was the largest in the history of the NBA Finals.

Mark Whicker

Orange County Register

THE GOOD NEWS for the Utah Jazz is Karl Malone isn't worrying about his jumper anymore.

The bad news? He's got far bigger concerns.

Jesse Barkin

San Jose Mercury News

WEDNESDAY NIGHT, we find out if it's time to order the champagne, the cigars, the confetti. Game 4 will tell us for sure whether the Utah Jazz is nothing more than Great Salt Fakes. Tell us, dear visitors, do you really believe you belong on the same NBA Finals floor with Michael's team?

Sunday night, the suspicion grew like the Bulls' lead that you don't. You had your chance to make it a game and a series, but you were content with a 19-14 lead and a moral victory. You accomplished your objective, flipping your man Karl Malone's switch, watching him make his first six shots. You had a cold, flat home team right where you wanted it. But you weren't worthy.

You backed off. Malone watched the rest of you guys miss shot after wide-open shot. You lost this game near the end of the first quarter because you didn't appear to believe you could win it. You lost it more than the Bulls won it. Sure, once the Bulls smelled the blood oozing from self-inflicted wounds, they sent the Dobermans after you and your fleeing Mailman. They went for every steal, every throat.

Skip Bayless

Chicago Tribune

THIS IS GETTING to be easier than even Michael Jordan ever dreamed it could be. This is getting to be easier than anyone in Chicago could have imagined. This is getting to be easier than taking the Nets.

The defending champs, two wins on their home floor from title No. 6, are now toying with the Utah Jazz. They're making Karl Malone bicker with the officials. They're making John Stockton look old and slow. They're making Utah look like just another Western Conference team that can't get past their renowned defense.

Most of all, they're making Utah look overmatched and not remotely up to the challenge of dethroning a championship team. Which is pretty amazing considering how the Jazz waltzed through the Western Conference, with only one loss in the final two playoff rounds. But these are the Bulls.

Mitch Lawrence

New York Daily News

IT'S WHAT they're willing to do that separates the Bulls.


Step in and give up their multimillion dollar thoroughbred bodies to take the charge. Then get up and do it again. And again. Never have so many expensive posteriors been bounced so often or slid so far.


Help out. Switch. Double team. Overplay. Trap.

The dirty stuff.

The stuff for which statistics like steals, turnovers forced, loose balls captured and rebounds seized were invented.

The stuff that wins cham-pi-on-ships.

Bill Lyon

Philadelphia Inquirer

THE NAME ON the shirt says Jazz.

What I can't figure is whether that is an insult to America's music or an insult to America's game.

Basketball, heretofore, has been considered a two-team game. What-ever the Bulls were doing in the United Center Sunday evening, they were doing it alone.

This was shadow boxing. This was reading. This was bathing. This was . . .

If this were a Seinfeld episode, let's just say, the Bulls would be masters of their domain.

"A few things broke for us," conceded Phil Jackson.

Sure, and they all have names. Stockton. Malone. Hornacek. Os-ter-tag. Unless those are aliases for Gummo, Zeppo, Harpo and Hagar the Horrible.

These guys better be fingerprinted before being allowed on the floor for Game 4 against the Bulls. Forget prints. Check them for fin-gers.

Bernie Lincicome

Chicago Tribune

WATCH THEM CLOSELY the rest of the week, because it might be over before Sunday.


The Bulls fo the 1990s are what the Beatles were during the 1960s and Chicago's swan song is beginning to sound like Side 2 of the "Abbey Road" album. The Bulls are play-ing one final jam of perfect music before Jerry Krause pulls a Yoko Ono and breaks up the band.

Chicago's march toward a third straight title, and a sixth of this decade (is there any doubt it would be eight straight if not for Jordan's baseball flirtation?), took a dramatic step forward last night at the United Center when the Bulls dismantled the Utah Jazz, 96-54, to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

That's right, folks. 96-54. Utah set a record for Finals futility, shattering the previous low score of 71. It was the worst beating in the history of the NBA Finals, surpassing Washington's 35-point drubbing of the Sonics in 1978.

Dan Shaughnessy

Boston Globe

THE UTAH JAZZ picked one strange time to not show up. Through three quarters of Sunday's Game 3, the Jazz had made 17 field goals while committing 20 turnovers. They finished with 54 points, the all-time low for points in an NBA game.

Not for a championship game, mind you, but any old game. The Jazz didn't just break the old record of 71 points, they obliterated it, made a mockery of it. How can you break a fewest-points record by 17 points? How do you come raging into the Finals with designs of dethroning the champs and get beaten byt 40 points, the largest margin of defeat ever in an NBA Finals game?

Michael Wilbom

Washington Post

MOMENTS AFTER his Los Angeles Lakers had been swept in four games by the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference finals, coach Del Harris was asked whether Utah could be expected to run such a smooth offense against the Bulls in the NBA Finals.

"The Bulls play the kind of defense that will make things difficult for the Jazz," Harris said. "They have three guys who can guard any of Utah's players."

During Game 2 of the Finals, the Bulls gave hints of what their defense can do to an opponent, even one with as polished an offense as Utah's. In Game 3 Sunday night, the Bulls offered more than hints. They offered frightening proof.

Dan Barreiro

Minneapolis Star Tribune