The Top Five Game Ones In Utah Jazz Playoff History, Plus Five
Apr 20, 2020, 1:18 PM
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz should have wrapped up game one of a postseason series over the weekend and been preparing for game two either tonight or Tuesday in their first-round matchup. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic has sidelined the NBA, as fans anxiously await a return to action.
With that in mind, KSL Sports has gathered the five best game ones in franchise history, with an added five to round out the top 10.
1. Utah Jazz @ Los Angeles Clippers: 2017 Western Conference First Round
After Rudy Gobert’s knee contusion just seconds into game one on the road in Los Angeles, the Jazz return to the playoffs after a four-year hiatus looked doomed before it even began.
However, the injury forced the Jazz to rely more heavily on veteran Joe Johnson to make up the missing front-court minutes. Johnson poured in 21 points, including a buzzer-beating floater over Jamal Crawford that sealed the opening game victory for the Jazz.
The Jazz would go onto win the series in seven games, including a blowout victory in Los Angeles to close out the heavily favored Clippers.
Great @UtahJazz moments from the last decade.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) December 31, 2019
Though he only played one and a half seasons in Utah, Johnson’s playoff performance made him a legend among the fanbase and a beacon of hope when chasing name-value free agents.
2. Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers: 1998 Western Conference Finals Game One
With a recently acquired Shaquille O’Neal and a fresh-faced rookie named Kobe Bryant, it was clear the Los Angeles Lakers were on the verge of another dynastic run that would dominate the NBA.
However, the Jazz weren’t quite ready to hand over the reins to the upstart Lakers. The Jazz demolished the Lakers in game one of the Western Conference Finals 112-77, the biggest loss in Lakers playoff history.
Karl Malone led the Jazz with 29 points and 10 rebounds en route to a four-game sweep and a return to the NBA Finals.
May 16,1998: The Utah Jazz win Game 1 of the 1998 Western Conference Finals 112-77 over the Lakers. It is the worst playoff loss in Lakers franchise history. Karl Malone had 29 points and 10 rebounds while the @utahjazz bench steps up with 53 points. #KSLSportsArchive https://t.co/AwtxS8xBrc pic.twitter.com/z2yRk6AQCX
— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) April 12, 2020
3. Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trail Blazers: 1996 Western Conference First Round
The Jazz began their playoff run in 1996 against the Portland Trail Blazers with a win in game one thanks to 23 assists from John Stockton.
Malone scored 33 points in the series opener and Jeff Hornacek scored 30 to outduel the Blazers 110-102.
The Jazz would go on to take the series in five games including a 102-64 victory in the deciding game five.
4. Utah Jazz @ Houston Rockets: 1985 Western Conference First Round
Though the franchise hadn’t transformed into the Stockton and Malone led the team that would be a fixture in the Western Conference playoffs for the next decade and a half, the mid-’80s Jazz were no pushover.
That’s a lesson Akeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson would learn the hard way. Future Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley would score 25 points and grab 10 rebounds, numbers mirrored by forward Thurl Bailey, while Mark Eaton had eight blocks in a 115-101 Jazz win.
The two teams would alternate wins throughout the series with the Jazz closing out the Rockets in game five on the road.
April 19, 1985: The @utahjazz go on the road and stun the Houston Rockets 115-101 in Game 1 in the first round of the 1985 #NBA Playoffs. Adrian Dantley had 34 points, @bigTbailey had 25 points and 10 rebounds and @markeaton7ft4 had 8 blocks #KSLSportsArchive #TakeNote #NBA pic.twitter.com/OhbPO1QOKt
— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) April 20, 2020
5. Utah Jazz vs. Seattle SuperSonics: 2000 Western Conference First Round
Though the Jazz were clearly past their prime as a contender, Malone still had plenty left in the tank. At age 36, Malone scored 50 points on 18-32 shooting to become the oldest player in league history to break the 50 point barrier in the postseason.
The Jazz would win the playoff opener 104-93 before winning the series in five games with each team protecting their home floor.
April 22, 2000: Karl Malone became the oldest player in #NBA history (36 years, 273 days) to score 50+ points in a playoff game. He had 50 points on 18/32 FG, 13-14 FT, and 12 rebounds in a Game 1 win over the SuperSonics pic.twitter.com/Ldr68P2AM2
— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) April 2, 2020
6. Utah Jazz vs. Chicago Bulls: 1998 NBA Finals
No list could be complete without the Jazz game one victory over the Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls in game one of the 1998 NBA Finals. After falling to Chicago in the 1997 Finals, the Jazz repeated as Western Conference champions with homecourt advantage against the Bulls.
Though Jordan’s Bulls would ultimately reign supreme, the Jazz game one victory was one of the most memorable games in team history.
The Jazz beat Chicago 88-85 in overtime thanks to a 24 point performance from Stockton on a mega-efficient 9-12 shooting.
7. Utah Jazz @ Phoenix Suns: 1991 Western Conference First Round
Despite starting the series on the road, the Jazz proved they were the better of the two Western Conference foes in a 129-90 shellacking of the Phoenix Suns in game one.
Malone scored 27 points to lead the Jazz while they held soon-to-be Jazzman Jeff Hornacek to three points on 0-8 shooting.
The Jazz would go onto win the series 3-1, avenging a first-round series loss to the Suns a season earlier.
8. Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets: 1984 Western Conference First Round
Every story needs a beginning and the Jazz victory over the Denver Nuggets in game one of the first round of the playoffs marked the first playoff victory in team history.
Dantley scored 30 points while guard Rickey Green contributed 25 points in the 123-121 victory.
The Jazz would go on to win the series in five games, including fending off the Nuggets in game four on the road in a potential closeout game.
April 17, 1984: Adrian Dantley scored 30 points, Rickey Green had 25 points and 12 assists and John Drew had 24 off the bench as the @utahjazz won Game 1 over the Nuggets 123-121. It was the first playoff game and playoff win in franchise history #KSLSportsArchive #takenote #NBA pic.twitter.com/2H8gpjnuEO
— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) April 20, 2020
9. Utah Jazz vs. Golden State Warriors: 2007 Western Conference Semifinals
After a bruising seven-game series against the Rockets, the Jazz were lucky to catch the eighth-seeded Warriors who had stunned the heavily favored Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
Though the Warriors game into the series with tremendous momentum, the Jazz quickly established their superiority with a 116-112 victory, erasing a five-point deficit to open the fourth quarter.
Deron Williams led the Jazz with 31 points and would go on to close the series out in a hard-fought five games.
10. Utah Jazz vs Golden State Warriors: 1987 Western Conference First Round
Though the Jazz would lose the series in the first round, beating the Warriors in game one of the 1986 first-round playoff series marked the true beginning on the future of the Jazz for the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s.
Malone started for the Jazz and led the team with 20 points in a 99-85 victory over Golden State. Stockton would come off the bench and contribute a modest four points and three assists in nine minutes.
The Jazz would lose the series in five games but had finally begun to develop their identity that would lead to the best era in franchise history.
The series may be best remembered by a brawl that broke out after game two that saw Malone and Warriors forward Greg Ballard get into a fight that eventually spilled into the stands.
I'm surprised this incident doesn't get more attention historically. Karl Malone and Greg Ballard got in a fight at the end of Game 2 in the 1987 NBA playoffs between the @utahjazz and Warriors. The fight spilled into the Salt Palace seats. #KSLSportsArchive #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/ziLp3Ivcsa
— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) April 7, 2020
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