June 9, 1997 in Sports

Stockton Air-Mails To Malone Rebound, Long Pass Is Key Play In Stretch

Mike Nadel Associated Press
 

John Stockton pulled down the rebound in traffic, looked up and saw his favorite sight: Karl Malone running downcourt, ready to break into the clear.

With one motion, Stockton whipped the ball some 60 feet. It went just over defender Michael Jordan’s outstretched arm and hit Malone in stride. Malone went in for the layup, and, with 44 seconds left, Utah took the lead at 74-73.

Stockton, who rarely shows emotion, pumped both arms wildly in celebration and just kept jumping up and down.

It was the most memorable in a series of huge plays by Stockton down the stretch as the Jazz defeated the Chicago Bulls 78-73 Sunday night to draw even after four games of the NBA Finals.

“I know you guys get tired of hearing about … Stocktonto-Malone,” Malone told reporters. “But to me, out of all our plays, that was the play I’ll remember for the rest of my career because it had to be the perfect pass. We take it for granted. It was pretty difficult.”

Said Stockton: “If you could have suspended time right when the ball was in the air, (coach Jerry Sloan) would have probably strangled me. It was one of those ‘No. No. No. No. Yes!’ type deals.”

The All-Star point guard, the NBA’s career assist and steals leader, also made a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc with 2:23 left to cut Chicago’s lead to 71-69, made a free throw with 1:31 remaining to make it 73-70, and took the ball right out of a spinning Jordan’s hands and then hit two foul shots with 1:03 to go to pull the Jazz within a point.

Then, after Chicago’s Steve Kerr missed an open 3-pointer, Stockton had his amazing rebound-and-pass play.

“Those are some of the things that took the momentum away from us and got the crowd back into the game,” the Bulls’ Scottie Pippen said.

Bulls coach Phil Jackson marveled at Stockton’s long pass, but felt that Stockton’s long 3-pointer was the game’s biggest play.

“That got them back in the game,” Jackson said. “We had all the momentum and 2-1/2 minutes to go in the game.”

Stockton said he was practicing for next season, when the league is expected to move the 3-point line back from 22 feet to as long as 23 feet, 9 inches, where it was three years ago.

“I don’t think it was much deeper than the old line,” said Stockton, who finished with 17 points, 12 assists and four steals. “It’s something I think we’re all going to have to get used to again.”

Stockton also took over down the stretch in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t feel he’s the kind of player who can take over games.

“If it turns out that way,” he said, “I’m thrilled that it works out for us.”

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: STOCK REPORT A quick glance at Spokane’s John Stockton at the NBA Finals. Pts Ast Reb Sti Game 4 17 12 3 4 Ave. 16 10.8 3.8 2.5

“That was the play I’ll remember for the rest of my career because it had to be the perfect pass.” Karl Malone, on the pass from Stockton that gave Utah its final lead

This sidebar appeared with the story: STOCK REPORT A quick glance at Spokane’s John Stockton at the NBA Finals. Pts Ast Reb Sti Game 4 17 12 3 4 Ave. 16 10.8 3.8 2.5

“That was the play I’ll remember for the rest of my career because it had to be the perfect pass.” Karl Malone, on the pass from Stockton that gave Utah its final lead


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email