There are about two minutes left in this Utah vs. Golden State game. It's insanely fun to watch. Both teams are fast-breaking like crazy. Great point guard duel. Lots of made baskets. If you have friends who don't like basketball, make them watch this series, and they stand an excellent chance of being converted.
UPDATE: Wow. Utah wins, barely. 116-112. This will be a great series.
On the key play, the Warriors have the ball down two. Baron Davis penetrates, draws a crowd, then wheels and fires a pass out to a wide open Stephen Jackson. Jackson doesn't hesitate and lets it fly. As it's in the air, I think pretty much everyone in the Salt Lake City crowd had their heart in their throat.
There is still time.
The rebound comes to the point guards, Deron Williams and Baron Davis, who play to a draw -- which is fitting -- by batting the ball back into the air and into a thicket of bodies. Carlos Boozer makes some serious contact with the ball, but he's one of seven players congested in the middle of the floor.
At this exact moment I remember when Matt Harpring was a Philadelphia 76er. I spent a fair amount of time talking to him one evening about his workout techniques. I was hoping to write an article about that for Inside Stuff magazine, which is targeted to teenagers. He wasn't boastful at all, but he made clear that he thought it would be a bad idea for young people to work out like he did. He lifted, he said, a lot of heavy weights. He has a weird body, that can just take it and keep on going. In a league of strong men, Matt Harpring has made a career of outmuscling and outmaneuvering bigger people.
Harpring comes down with the ball, and is fouled on his way to collapsing with the Spalding. He hits both free throws with 7.7 seconds left. Golden State doesn't score again.
Oh, and that supposed contrast in styles we all wrote about heading into this series? Well, not so much. More like: Whatever you can do, we can do faster.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan spent Monday morning declaring that his bigger, brawnier team would be cooked if it played at the Warriors' pace, and maybe he was telling the truth.
The Jazz went out in the first quarter and played faster than the Warriors, which I would not have said was possible until I saw the blurs of white and blue in front of my eyes.
What followed was one of the fiercest, most frantic, flat-out best opening periods of playoff basketball anyone has ever seen.
Williams did amazing Davis-type things -- to Baron Davis. Harrington came off the bench when the Warriors were trying to recover from Utah's early electricity and immediately banged in three three-pointers to plug the Warriors back into it.
Each team sprinted at the other and just kept sprinting.
It was relentless. It was remarkable. It was only one quarter!
"We'll just call the game off -- that's what we'll have to do," Sloan said before the game. "I don't see us doing too much else. You can see what we are. Everybody knows what we are as a team. If you look at that, we just hope we can make some baskets.
"We can't get into a track meet with them. I think they would win."
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fibber!
Watch Coach Sloan in the post-game press-conference. He's totally nonchalant. Nobody really pressed him on the pace issue (was it an intentional ruse?) but to the extent he addressed it he just said the team gets better shots when they don't walk the ball on the floor. He also said that for Game 2 he wants his players to "get quicker." That sly old dog. Seems to me that Deron Williams was working with an ultimatum to fly. And Sloan made it sound like they were terrified of running.
One other note: Salt Lake Tribune columnist Kurt Kragthorpe points out that, on paper at least, this may have been Golden State's best opportunity to get a game on the road:
Game 1 may have been the most challenging contest the Jazz will play in EnergySolutions Arena during this series. They had a quick turnaround from the epic series with the Rockets that lasted seven games and 15 days, and they were missing veteran guard Derek Fisher, excused to deal with a child's health issues.
Sexy as the point guard matchup may be, the basketball story of this game was 100% rebounding. ESPN's John Hollinger writes in the Daily Dime:
Not surprisingly, the result was that the Jazz totally dominated on the glass, with Utah grabbing as nearly offensive boards (20) as the Warriors had on the defensive glass (22). Carlos Boozer led the way with 10, including a go-ahead putback in the fourth quarter -- helping make up for a disappointing offensive effort in which he struggled against the fronting defense of smaller Warriors players, mostly Jackson and Matt Barnes.
"They were double- and triple-teaming me," Boozer said. "So I told my guys, 'Look, you all just take the shots and I'll go offensive rebound.'"
"That's what killed us. You can't win when you give somebody 20 rebounds," Barnes said. "That's the one bad thing about playing smallball ... I'm 215, he's 260. I've just got to work harder to keep him off the glass."
Golden State was outrebounded 54-36, a differential great enough to make winning nearly impossible. It's very hard for me to believe that Nelson would repeat an approach that let his opponent get 50% more rebounds than his team. Which means the Jazz may have already managed something that Dallas never did: they're forcing Don Nelson to adjust to them.