Facebook Twitter

BLown away

Jerry Sloan was sitting. That's all you needed to know about what was happening to the Jazz Sunday night in Chicago.

With nearly a quarter left to play in the game, there were referees to berate and profanities to shout and plays to be signaled and a court to be paced and stomped into submission. But he was up to none of his usual tricks. Sloan, the man who never knew what that chair was for, was sitting, just sitting, staring from the bench.This was the equivalent of raising the white flag. Sloan had already sent Jacque Vaughn onto the court with terms of the truce, alas, too late. By then the Bulls were putting the finishing touches on a remarkable 96-54 win over the Jazz - going once, going twice, going . . . ?

Read it and weep, Jazz fans. The Jazz lost by 42 points - the biggest margin of defeat in NBA Finals history. It wasn't even close. They broke the record by seven points. Let's face it, when the Jazz do something, they do it in spectacular fashion, one way or another - no middle of the road for them, as Jeff Hornacek noted.

The Jazz's 54 points are the fewest ever scored by an NBA team in the playoffs or the regular season since the shot clock was introduced to the league in 1954. The Jazz went to a place not even the Clippers have visited. But they should not be embarrassed. Some high schools score only 54 points, too.

"I'm somewhat embarrassed for the NBA," said Sloan, whose team trails two games to one in their best-of-seven series.

The Jazz trailed by 18 points at halftime. And then things got bad. It was 24 minutes of garbage time. Twenty-four minutes of trying to decide if you should beat the traffic home. Twenty-four minutes of going to the fridge. Twenty-four minutes of Chicago highlights. TV sets were shutting off all over the country. Parents were hustling their children out of the room.

"This will go down in Chicago history with the other big massacres, like the Valentine's Day Massacre," said Adam Keefe.

Like Sloan, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Ron Harper spent the fourth quarter sitting on the bench, hamming it up, cheering for teammates and having a great time, while Karl Malone and John Stockton simmered on the Jazz bench. As Jud Buechler set up for a three-point shot, Jordan raised his arms to signal a three. It was good. They loved it.

"It was just like our Game 3 in San Antonio," said Karl Malone.

Yes, and while we're on the subject, all those in favor of having the Jazz skip Game 3 in the future say I. They never show up for it anyway, so from now on we dump it. We skip ahead to Game 4. It will save time. In the last seven playoff series dating back to last season, the Jazz have lost five times in Game 3 - by margins of 20, 18, 4, 22 and 42 points.

By the way, anyone seen the pick and roll lately?

The Bulls are rolling and relaxed, and now their may be no stopping them. After Sunday's massacre, Jordan was talking about his golf game, and this can't be a good sign. It's the equivalent of the Fat Lady singing. You get the feeling the Bulls can smell that sixth championship.

The Jazz will have to wait three days for Game 4 and heaven help us all. After losing Game 2, Sloan was impossible to live with. And that was a three-point loss. We don't even want to think about what he'll be like after a 42-point blowout.

He swore at a group of reporters after finding them waiting outside the Jazz locker room door at Tuesday's practice in Salt Lake City. Then he took his team upstairs to practice in the gym - only to find the door locked. That's what kind of week it's been. Sloan's been about as much fun as a toothache since Game 2. While watching film with his players, he scolded each of them in turn with his Marine-sergeant language.

"He berated whomever deserved to be berated," said Greg Foster. "We can expect more of that. You guys (reporters) better watch out, too."

Sloan, never one to miss a ploy, seemed to be plotting his next strategy as soon as the game ended. He used the post-game press conference to send a message to his team, hinting that the Bulls ran up the score by shooting three-pointers at the end of the game "to see how they can bury you. If that wouldn't get you ready to play, I don't know what would."

But absolutely nobody bought into that. "Their guys were getting wide open looks," said Foster. "What are they going to do?"

Said Adam Keefe, "If we were in that situation we would have done the exact same thing . . . They weren't hot dogging or anything."

"Well, I don't believe that Jerry Sloan would say that," said Phil Jackson. "That wasn't the case, and I'm sure Jerry didn't mention that. I know he's much more of a pro than to say that."

At this point, Sloan might just be desperate enough to try anything to shake up his team. Nothing else is working. After Karl Malone's poor performances in the first two games, everyone was saying the Jazz couldn't win without him. Then Malone goes out and scores 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in a 42-point loss and reporters are asking if the Jazz can win if Malone does it all for his team.

It gets confusing. The Jazz have three days to make sense of it.