CHICAGO -- On Day 2 after the Game 3 massacre, Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone was less grouchy. He even smiled a couple of times, but it was still clear he was irked by some of the Chicago Bulls' late-game antics during Sunday's 42-point win.
"After a loss like the other night, and you look at things, I don't think they're taking us seriously at all," Malone said yesterday. "When you see things like that, it makes you want to play a little bit harder."
Things like the Bulls pulling up for three-pointers to enhance further the most lopsided margin of victory in NBA Finals history. Or the wild celebrating from the Chicago bench. In fact, comments from the Bulls the last couple of days about how they have figured out the pick-and-roll style perfected by the Jazz would indicate this series is over.
"I think they are a predictable team," Scottie Pippen said of the Jazz. "Most of the half-court sets evolve around [John] Stockton, Malone and [Jeff] Hornacek. If we can take them out of their sets, I think we can put them in positions where they are fighting the shot clock."
If this all sounds familiar, that's because the Bulls experienced a similar situation in the Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers. Pippen's defense on point guard Mark Jackson disrupted Indiana's offense so much during the first two games that many thought the Pacers would be swept. But Indiana fought back to extend the series to seven games.
In holding the Jazz to the lowest-scoring game in the post-shot clock era of the NBA, the Bulls ran double teams at Stockton as soon as he passed half court.
The Jazz is confident it can make the adjustments to get back in this series, although the players wouldn't allude to just what those changes are.
"We've been trapped before, we've had the ball taken out of my hands before, and we've adjusted," Stockton said. "The fact that we didn't do it in the last couple of games, mostly in the last game, was something we have to address, but it's not something we haven't seen before. We'll move on from here."
Indeed, Utah has adjusted before under similar circumstances. As recently as the Western Conference semifinals, the Jazz was held to an NBA playoff-record-low 64 points in a loss to San Antonio, but bounced back to win the next game.
To the Jazz, the lopsided loss was an aberration. Utah knows that a win tonight would even the series at 2-2, guarantee a return to Utah and the regaining of home-court advantage.
"I've always felt like when we've had disappointing times they've always come back and played pretty hard," said Utah coach Jerry Sloan. "We have to realize who we are playing against and be able to understand what they are trying to do. I think we'll play hard, but the important thing is to play intelligently."
Intelligently will mean being patient and cutting down on the 26 turnovers on Sunday that turned into 22 second-chance points. And bouncing back will mean getting a decent offensive effort from all five starters. On Sunday, Malone had 22 points and the rest of the starting five totaled 15 points on combined 6-for-30 shooting.
With that win by the Bulls, Michael Jordan said yesterday that his team regained a little bit of the swagger he said was lost in the tough Eastern Conference finals series against Indiana.
"Swagger is a sense of confidence, and I always believed we had confidence," Jordan said. "We have a good sense of what we are. That confidence has never disappeared from the Chicago Bulls. The swagger may have been less a little bit, but it's always been there."
A concern for the Bulls will be whether Dennis Rodman, who attended a wrestling match on Monday after skipping practice earlier in the day, will be a distraction. Rodman, who jumped into a white limousine after practice yesterday, was the hot topic of the day.
"I know what he has to do as far as being part of the unit on the basketball court and when I see that starting to be affected, I become vocal about it," Jordan said. "But at this time it hasn't affected us in terms of what we're trying to achieve."
If Rodman is to be taken for his word, then his focus will be ending the series in the next two games.
"I don't want to go back to Utah. My life just goes to complete hell when I go to Utah," Rodman said.
"If we win Wednesday, it's going to be a very difficult task for anyone to beat the Bulls. It's going to be difficult for anyone to beat the Bulls three out of four games."
Chicago vs. Utah
(Chicago leads, 2-1)
Date Res./Site Time
Game 1 Utah, 88-85, OT
Game 2 Chicago, 93-88
Game 3 Chicago, 96-54
Today at Chicago (-5) 9
Friday at Chicago 9
Sunday at Utah 7: 30*
June 17 at Utah 9*
TV: Chs. 11, 4
Pub Date: 6/10/98