NO GUARANTEES : Jazz Wasn’t Just All Talk, but Malone Isn’t About to Make Another Prediction, Either
After Utah’s heartbreaking 111-109 loss to the Lakers Tuesday night in Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference semifinals at the Forum, Jazz forward Karl Malone guaranteed that the series would return to the Forum.
Malone made good on his promise Thursday night, scoring a game-high 27 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds as the Jazz crushed the Lakers, 108-80, to tie the best-of-seven series, 3-3, and force a seventh game Saturday at the Forum.
Malone refused, however, to offer a prediction for Game 7.
“I’m through with guarantees. I survived that guarantee, and I’m not going to make anymore. I got my butt out of a crack. If we would have lost, I would have looked like a . . . ,” Malone said.
“You guys have no idea what kind of pressure I felt today. I picked up the phone and talked to my mother, and she said that she had heard about my guarantee in Louisiana.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have said it, but I just spoke and it came out. I said it at the spur of the moment. That was the way I felt. Maybe sometimes I get a little cocky, but all athletes are cocky. Maybe I talk too much. I’m glad my teammates were thinking the same way I was.”
Utah Coach Frank Layden, asked if he had any predictions of his own, said: “I don’t have any predictions. Ask Nostradamus. The way this thing is going, California is probably going to go into the drink.”
The Jazz, who led by 18 points at the end of the opening quarter, took command of the game with a 26-2 first-quarter run.
“They came out with the intention to put us away, but we kept our poise,” Malone said. “Our whole attitude was to come out and run, and we came out and ran.
“We never thought we could take the fight out of them. This is a great game, but we haven’t won it yet.
“The Lakers have got the momentum because we’re going to their place. They know what the game means. Nobody expects them to lose. Some people have probably already printed up hats for the Lakers and Celtics (in the NBA finals). What scares me to death is that they haven’t run their fast break like the old Lakers, and that’s scary. Just to see L-A-K-E-R-S is intimidating.”
Malone wasn’t Utah’s only hero.
Guard Bobby Hansen, who had 25 points, including 14 in the third quarter, hit 10 of 11 shots, including a pair of three-pointers.
“It felt like a summer league game,” Hansen said. “I was just playing free and easy. The shot felt great tonight. I had my rhythm.
“Now, it’s a one-game series. We have a lot of confidence and anything can happen.”
Said Malone: “I’ve never seen Bobby play a better game since I’ve been here. He got hot. He was scorching hot.”
Said center Mark Eaton of Hansen: “He played out of his mind, and I hope he keeps that frame of mind Saturday.”
Forward Thurl Bailey also hurt the Lakers, scoring 20 points in 41 minutes off the bench. “We had a big lead, which took the steam out of them in the second and third quarters. We made believers out of L.A.,” Bailey said. “Now anything can happen.”
And guard John Stockton, who has set a league mark for most assists in a series, also had another big game, scoring 14 points and passing off for 17 assists.
Eaton dominated the middle, grabbing 10 rebounds, scoring 9 points and blocking 2 shots.
“I was surprised to know we would win by this big of a margin,” Eaton said. “We came out ready to play because we didn’t want our season to end.”