Two of Jerry Sloan’s memorable games against two Northern California teams.
by Jonathan Santiago / @itsJONsantiago
Jerry Sloan surprisingly announced his resignation and retirement from the Utah Jazz yesterday. Through the power of YouTube, I decided to look back at two memorable games Sloan coached against Northern California’s two NBA franchises.
1999 Western Conference First Round: Game 5 – Kings and Jazz
Coming into this series, Utah had just come off two consecutive NBA Finals appearances against the Chicago Bulls. Meanwhile, Sacramento made the Playoffs after a two year hiatus, their third appearance in the Sacramento era. The series was also a match-up that pitted one generation versus the next. The up-and-coming two-man tandem of Jason Williams and Chris Webber versus Sloan’s old-reliable duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone.
The following clip from Game 5 starts off at about the three-minute mark in the fourth quarter. Sacramento led by two following a free-throw line split by Webber.
Veteran savvy would win out in the end, with the Jazz defeating the Kings 99-92 in overtime. Sloan’s Jazz took advantage of the Kings’ inexperience. Only two shot attempts, four turnovers and two points for Sacramento in their first six possessions in the extra period. At game’s end, the Kings tandem of Webber and Williams combined for a meager 14 points, six assists and 16 rebounds. Stockton and Malone? 32 points, 16 assists and 17 rebounds.
In retrospect, the 1999 Western Conference first round series between the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings was a passing of the torch. Although the Jazz would top the upstart Kings in the series, it took them all five games to do so. The series marked the beginning of an eight-year postseason run for Sacramento. But the Jazz would post only two more 50-plus winning seasons following and failed to qualify for the Playoffs the first time under Sloan’s watch five years later.
2007 Western Conference Semifinals: Game 2 – Warriors and Jazz
In their first postseason action in 13 years, the Golden State Warriors had just stunned the Dallas Mavericks, becoming the lowest seed ever to win a seven-game NBA series. The Jazz, on the other hand, were back in the Playoffs after a three-year hiatus, following a reloading period after the Stockton-Malone era.
Like the 1999 first round meeting between the Jazz and Kings, this series was a match-up of contrasting styles. The Jazz featured a new cast of characters, but played the same tough-minded brand of Sloan basketball. The Warriors were a rag-tag bunch of run-and-gunners, deficient of defense – typical of Don Nelson coached teams.
Game two was a crucial must-win for either team before the series shifted to Oakland. The Warriors had lost game one 116-112, despite four players scoring at least 20 points (thanks Elias). Unfortunately for Golden State, they found themselves on the opposite end of one the most memorable momentum swings in NBA Playoff history.
Missed free throws would be the Warriors’ demise. Mickael Pietrus missed two that would have given the Warriors a five point lead near the end of the fourth. And after a Mehmet Okur jumper cut the Warriors’ lead to one, Baron Davis split a pair in the final 10 seconds of regulation. Though the Warriors would go on a 12-1 run late in the fourth, the Jazz managed to rally and force overtime on a Deron Williams jumper to tie the game. The Jazz then cruised to a 127-117 victory.
Winning game two was a pivotal turning point in the series. Though it only went five games, the series story can’t be read as such. The Jazz won games only by an average point differential of 4.2. Considering the Warriors were clearly outmatched by the Jazz’s presence on the glass (a 19.6 rebound differential), it was a closer series than the final result suggests.
So, what made the difference?
Sloan’s troops executed and responded in crunch-time while Nelson’s crumbled and complained under pressure.
Sloan’s 2006-07 team set the stage for the current era of Jazz hoops. Unfortunately, they’ve been wildly inconsistent this year despite their talent. And maybe that was one of the contributing factors to his retirement. Only he knows.
Though it’s sad to see him step down, the action brings Sloan’s coaching career with the Jazz full-circle. He exits the same way he began his 23-year coaching career with the season already in full-swing.
But this time, everyone was watching.
Jonathan Santiago is an editor and podcaster over at DSD.