The Utah Globetrotters, known officially as the Jazz, completed their international rounds with jet lag that turned into basketball lag that turned into a 2-5 start. Going from East Coast exhibitions to Far East regular-season games in Tokyo took its toll.
"You could see their energy level," Coach Jerry Sloan said after a 105-95 victory over the Clippers Saturday night. "All the guys had trouble doing what we like to do, like running the floor and getting easy baskets. They were trying to run to spots to conserve energy."
After a 22-point victory over the Lakers and a 21-point win over the Detroit Pistons the game before, Utah is on solid ground again. There's no doubt John Stockton is back on top, too. His statement came in the way of 23 assists, more than any player in the league this season, and 27 points against the Clippers before 13,522 at the Sports Arena.
Fifteen of Stockton's assists came the first two quarters, tying a franchise record for most in a half. Nineteen of his points came in the third and fourth quarters, when the Clippers rallied from an 18-point deficit to make it close.
Passing, scoring. Scoring, passing. What seemed to be a shift in his game plan at the midway point was very much unintentional.
"I'm not smart enough to do that," Stockton said. "Or stupid enough, whatever the case may be. I'm just playing my game, reacting."
In the process, he gave the Clippers, looking to extend their season-long win streak to four games, a very bad reaction. The only antidote is to get a few area codes away from the guy.
"He just loads them on his back," Coach Mike Schuler said of Stockton, who began the night averaging 12.8 assists, third best in the league, and jumped to 13.4.
In truth, Stockton, who had only one turnover, wasn't alone in carrying the Jazz to their ninth win in 10 games. Karl Malone also had 27 points and Jeff Malone, Stockton's backcourt partner, added 20 as Utah's starting guards outscored their counterparts, 47-14.
With all this, the Clippers still had a chance late. They trailed only 85-81 with 6:04 left, but a 7-2 run by the Jazz was enough to put the game away. The key basket was a three-pointer by Stockton.
That, and Stockton's layin with 17 seconds remaining, turned out to be the only two Utah field goals in the last 5 1/2 minutes. The Jazz were saved by making 12 free throws in the same stretch.
The Clippers failed to score the first 3:05 of the game. Soon, the Jazz, winners of all four meetings last season by an average of 20.5 points, had a 12-4 cushion, which became 25-16 at the end of the quarter.
The Clippers caused themselves as many problems as Utah, committing eight turnovers, many of them unforced. They closed the quarter with three giveaways in six possessions, and that's counting Tom Garrick's desperation three-quarter-court shot at the buzzer.
That wasn't even the worst of it. With 5:08 to play in the second quarter, the Jazz had a 48-30 lead. It was 53-37 at halftime, as the Clippers failed to score in the final 2:07 and get a field goal the last 3:18.
The Clippers didn't show any signs of sustained life until midway through the third quarter. A 20-4 charge--and 13-2 within that--cut the Jazz advantage to 66-64 with 2:26 to play in the period.
It got as close as 68-67 on a three-point play by Danny Manning with 1:56 left, but the Clippers could never pull even. The Jazz followed Manning's basket with a four-point possession, two on free throws by Karl Malone and, after keeping the ball on the flagrant foul call by referee Bernie Fryer, another on a basket by Stockton.
The Clippers are among the teams the Miami Heat have approached to play a series of exhibition games next season in South America, Venezuela being the most likely site. They will probably decline, preferring not to use so much practice time to travel and get acclimated to the unusual surroundings. . . . Danny Manning has been upgraded from 25 to 30 minutes playing time in his continued rehabilitation from chronic tendinitis. . . . The Clippers open a six-game trip Tuesday at Minnesota.