This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Jazz facing the Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals is similar to another semifinal playoff series the Jazz playing the then-mighty Los Angeles Lakers in 1988. And the current Jazz, if they were honest with themselves, would be happy with a similar result.
Losing with honor.
The comparison begins with the enormity of the task.
Nobody thought that Jazz team had any shot against the Showtime Lakers. L.A. had been champions and the Jazz, in franchise history, had been to the NBA playoffs only twice. The Lakers, the league's glamour team, had a bunch of stars. They were a team that could get up the floor and score in flurries, led by Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Byron Scott, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. At the offensive end, they were frightening.
The Jazz had a couple of young NBA upstarts who hadn't really done anything in the postseason Karl Malone and John Stockton, and they had a shot-blocking big man, Mark Eaton, who had been dismissed as something less than legitimate, despite his remarkable physical dimensions.
Skip ahead to the Warriors-Jazz series now and … well, nobody thinks the Jazz have any kind of shot. And Tuesday's Game 1 result nudged that notion not one bit.
Golden State, the NBA's glamour team, has stars of its own Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Warriors have won a title. They get up the floor and score in flurries. At the offensive end, they are frightening.
The Jazz have a couple of young NBA upstarts who haven't really done much in the postseason Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert, Gobert being a shot-blocking big man who had been dismissed as something less than legitimate, despite his remarkable physical dimensions.
Is there an echo in here?
The Lakers were the West's No. 1 seed in the 1988 playoffs, and they swept their first-round opponent.
The Jazz were the fifth seed.
The Warriors are the West's No. 1 seed in the playoffs, and they swept their first-round opponent.
The Jazz are the fifth seed.
Some people believe that old Lakers team was … old. Other than Jabbar, who was 41, it really wasn't. Magic was 28, Worthy was 27, Scott was 27, A.C. Green was 24.
The Jazz stars were relatively young. Malone was 24, Stockton was 26, and they did have some veterans alongside Rickey Green was 33, Marc Iavaroni and Eaton were 31.
The Warriors now, just like the Lakers then, are pretty much in their prime Curry is 29, Durant is 28, Thompson and Green are 27.
The Jazz have a couple of stars who are emerging now Gobert is 24 and Hayward 27 and this is the first taste of the playoffs for Rudy and virtually the first for Hayward. There are also relative youngsters, such as Rodney Hood, 24, and Dante Exum, 21. Those guys are bolstered by vets Joe Johnson, 35, George Hill, who turns 31 on Thursday, and Boris Diaw, 35.
Two other similarities: The Lakers had Mychal Thompson on their team that year, the Warriors have Thompson's son, Klay, and, more significantly, the disparity in attitude between the two teams, then and now, was and is thick as a brick.
The '88 Lakers were full of themselves. They were seasoned to the point where they knew what it took to win a championship, but they also were a rolling rock show. They were Hollywood's team with attention constantly centered on them.
The 1988 Jazz? They were kind of promising in a cute sort of backwater way, but certainly no authentic threat. L.A. didn't exactly kick sand into the Jazz's faces, but they did know exactly who they were and who the Jazz weren't. It seemed the Jazz knew that, too.
After Game 1, a 19-point rout at the Forum in which the Jazz fell behind 24-8 in the first period, setting a record for the fewest playoff points in an opening quarter, and then, the Jazz trailed by 30 two minutes into the third quarter, coach Frank Layden played up the man-we-got-no-chance-in-this-series schtick.
Asked what he was thinking early on, Layden said: "After I slashed my wrists? My greatest fear, the one that has a coach waking up in the middle of the night screaming, is that we wouldn't score at all. The Dodgers had more runs (12) than we had points. That's scary."
He added: "I would like to tell you as a coach, and be emotional and say, 'Yeah, we got a chance,' but then ask me, 'Would you bet on it?' and I'd say, 'Bull …'"
Layden made everyone laugh, but what he was really doing, quite infamously, was filling the Lakers full of their own ego. What ended up happening was, the Jazz, from that point, stopped the laughter, and gained a whole lot of respect, which second to winning was what they craved. It was a step forward.
Some of the Warriors before this series began were talking about how they preferred to play the Clippers over the Jazz, not because of any worries on the court, rather on account of Los Angeles having better nightlife than Salt Lake City.
Such statements are arrogant and ridiculously dismissive, even if they are true.
So, after a 12-point loss in the first game, a margin closer than the game actually was, the latest iteration of an emerging Jazz team seeks respect, just like the Jazz team of old. Quin Snyder won't go into a Layden-esque comedy routine, but he'll do what he can to put his team in position to earn what it can.
The '88 Jazz came back to win Game 2 in L.A., hitting the Lakers hard with tough defense. They never trailed past the first quarter. After the series went to seven rugged games, with L.A. prevailing, nobody was laughing at the Jazz, not anymore.
Maybe that can repeat itself again in some more modest form during this Jazz-Warriors semifinal. The Jazz now, just like the Jazz then, are discovering for themselves who they are. And simultaneously trying, needing to prove to the more famous guys, the ones against whom everyone measures themselves, who they are, and why they should be respected.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.