It wasn't all bad for the Utah Jazz on Sunday evening in the United Center. Karl Malone finally found his jump shot and . . .
Well, it was all bad with the exception of Malone's M.I.A. jumper being located early in the first quarter. Take away Malone, and the Jazz looked like they were doing their best Denver Nuggets impersonation out there.Actually, that's not really fair - to the Nuggets. Despite all their woes, the Nuggets never had as tough a time scoring as the Jazz did on Sunday.
No team ever has, in fact.
The Jazz were all about shattering records on Sunday. But they were all of the dubious kind in Utah's 96-54 embarrassment in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. The 42-point victory gave the Chicago Bulls a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
How bad was it? The 54 points scored by the Jazz were the fewest ever in the Finals. And it was the fewest scored in a playoff game. In fact, it was the fewest points scored in any NBA game since the institution of a shot clock in 1954, "besting" the 55 points the Indiana Pacers managed in a game against the San Antonio Spurs last March. It was a full 17 points fewer than the previous low in the Finals.
To put it in perspective, the Jazz would have had to play an extra quarter-and-a-half at their pace on Sunday to score 71 points, which had been the previous Finals low dating back to 1955 when Fort Wayne edged Syracuse, 74-71.
So the Jazz shattered a 43-year-old Finals record, setting the bar so low that it may never be du-pli-cat-ed.
This from a team that until recently had won seven straight playoff games and 11 of 12.
Despite making league history, the Jazz weren't patting themselves on the back in the post-game locker room.
"We just laid down," said Adam Keefe. "This will go down in Chicago history with the other big massacres, like the Valentine's Day Massacre and all the rest of them. It was a sick effort on our part."
At the same time, it was a brilliant defensive effort on the part of the Bulls, especially Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Ron Harper and, yes, even Dennis Rodman. Chicago limited the Jazz to 30 percent shooting as a team while forcing 26 turnovers - an all-time Jazz franchise high in the playoffs.
"We couldn't have beaten this team today, probably, if we'd had everybody play extremely well," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, "because of how quick they were and as alive as they were defensively. But still in all, we'd didn't put up much of a fight and I'm very disappointed in that."
Actually, it didn't start out that badly for the Jazz. With Malone making his first six shots - four of them jumpers from the outside - Utah opened up a 14-9 lead with 3:32 to play in the first quarter.
But the Bulls then put Rodman on Malone, who succeeded in limiting the Mailman's chances. Malone didn't take another shot in the quarter, but his teammates did. They just didn't make any. In fact, the Jazz went through a 5:46 stretch without a point to go from owning a five-point lead to a seven-point deficit early in a hurry.
"We've had a history of bad starts in this playoff run and we had another one," said Chicago center Luc Longley. "But after that we put the pedal to the metal, and I haven't seen us play like that all year."
When Shandon Anderson finally broke the Jazz drought with a bucket with 9:41 remaining in the opening half, it ended an 0-for-18 shooting performance to that point by everyone on the Jazz roster not named John Stockton or Malone.
A few seconds that epitomized the Jazz's effort, or lack thereof, came at the end of the opening half. The Jazz were out-scored 10-2 in the final 2:27 - even giving up four points, two offensive rebounds, a turnover and a foul in the final seven seconds. Rodman hit an outside jumper for his only points of the game with 6.7 seconds left in the half. Scott Burrell then stole Bryon Russell's in-bounds pass, but missed a shot. Harper got the rebound and missed again, but Burrell was fouled getting a second offensive rebound with under a second to play. He made both free throws and the Bulls held a comfortable 49-31 lead at intermission.
As bad as the Jazz were in the first half - 38 percent shooting, 12 turnovers, etc. - they were even worst in the second. They managed an all-time Finals low 23 points in the third and fourth quarters. After being out-scored 23-14 in the third quarter to fall behind by 27, the Jazz starters were done for the night. So was Jordan.
"In the second half we just kind of quit," admitted Greg Ostertag, who started for the first time in the playoffs this year in place of Greg Foster.
Malone finished with a team-high 22 points on an impressive 8-of-11 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 from the foul line in just 31 minutes of play. But he was the only Jazz player to even reach double figures.
"Karl did his job and no one else did their job," said Foster. "There are five guys out there. One man can't do it all."
Foster then went on to graphically sum up how the effort made him - and a lot of Jazz fans - feel.
"It made me want to throw up," he said.
All 12 players for the Bulls scored. Jordan led the way with 24 points in 32 minutes. Toni Kukoc added 16, while Pippen and Burrell scored 10 each. Harper had a fine all-around game by just missing a triple-double with 10 rebounds, seven assists and eight points.
The Jazz will now have two days to think about their Sunday debacle. Game 4 of the series won't be played until Wednesday night in the United Center.
Bulls vs. Jazz: The Rematch
Game 1 Jazz 88
John Stockton leads Jazz with 24 points
Game 2 Chicago 93
Jordan scorches the Jazz for 37>
Game 3 Chicago 96
Jaxx shoot 30 percent in blowout
Game 4 Utah at
June 10 Chicago
Wednesday TV, Time: NBC, 7 p.m.
Game 5 Utah at
June 12 Chicago
If necessary TV, Time, NBC, 7 p.m
Game 6 Chicago
June 14 at Utah
If necessary TV, Time, NBC, 5:30 p.m.
Game 7 Chicago
June 17 at Utah
If necessary TV, Time: NBC, 7 p.m.