Game 75 vs. NY: By the seat of our pants
Early early on, it looked like another slow start + Bill Walker, who hit back-to-back 3s, would be the Unlikely All-Star of the Night. However, the Jazz scored 44 points on 17-20 shooting (7-7 on 3s) to the Knicks’ 30 in the first. While that was pretty great, vigilant Jazz fans probably knew we were in for trouble. It’s not like the Knicks were cold; they were just less hot. After getting the lead up to 15, our boys predictably got jump shot happy (a kind of happy I would like to kill) in the second quarter and watched (in between shooting) as the Knicks cut the lead to 4.
At this point, I’m wondering about our ability to recognize and adjust. Is this inability what keeps us from being a true contender? When something’s not working, it often takes us way too long to recognize that it’s not working and then a further long time to make adjustments. That we kept going with long jumpers in the second quarter even when they were no longer falling is just the latest example. 7-18 in the second quarter, 0-4 from 3.
At halftime, Tom Allen, who is coincidentally visiting from New York (“coincidentally” because we were playing the Knicks) arrived to watch the game. As the Knicks sanded the Jazz lead down to 0 late in the third, Tom told me a story about how he had met the Jazz when he was 12 years old.
The year was 1988, the month was March-Aprilish around Easter. Tom was flying home to Oakland, CA from Fort Myers, FL via Dallas/Fort Worth after visiting his grandparents and found himself sitting next to a Jazz player in coach. Apparently, First Class was full and this guy was the shortest player on the Jazz. Also in Economy Class were “the coach’s daughter” and “the coach,” who was sitting way in the back.
[Camera on stream pans to Jerry] Me: Is that him?
Me: Was he fat?
Tom: Yes! That’s actually the only thing I remember about him.
So we have identified the coach as Frank Layden. Next task was identifying the player Tom was sitting next to.
Me: Was it John Stockton?
Tom: No, it was a black dude.
[Cue basketball-reference.com, where we find out that the only two players on the Jazz roster in 1987-88 shorter than Stock were 6’0″ Rickey Green and 5’10” Eddie Hughes. Hughes only played 11 games for the Jazz that season. Cue Google image searches first for Eddie Hughes and then for Rickey Green.]
Me [on image of Rickey Green]: Is that him?
Tom: No. Looked more like the other guy.
[We decide that it must have been Hughes, because the 11 games he played for the Jazz all took place between late-March and late-April.]
Perhaps because Hughes was disgruntled about being the only player to have to sit in coach (ha!), he encouraged Tom to go to the front of the plane and get the Jazz players’ autographs, which Tom did. Mark Eaton is the only Jazz player Tom remembers, because even seated (in the first row), his knees were at the same level as Tom’s head.
Seeing as how Tom and I have known each other for over five years, I don’t know how this story didn’t come out until now, but whatever.
/End Story Time
So…recap-wise, where was I? Ah yes, the end of the third quarter. In the third and fourth, the Jazz exhibited some of the worse offense we’ve ever seen from this team. Lackadaisical, sloppy…”scattered out,” as Jerry said in the post-game. The only thing keeping us in the game was, incredibly enough, a few brief stretches of great defense. KK at times looked like a defensive stopper out there, while Ronnie P was pure hustle and, among other things, had a huge “In your face Luke Walton!!!”-esque highlight reel block.
We had no momentum after the first quarter, and thanks to some bad shots and turnovers, the Knicks absolutely could have taken this one. 44 points in the first quarter, and only 59 after that. We escaped by the seat of our pants with a win, and I would put money on the Knicks taking the game if it had gone on one minute longer. It’s disappointing that, this being a “double stake” game and all, the Jazz failed to show up or try to put the game away in the final 36 minutes. ARGH!!