Jazz taking Bulls to unsightly end



    There’s this song I just can’t get out of my head.

    It comes from Disney’s “Lion King.” The particular line that keeps coursing through my brain goes: “Prepare for the death of the king.”

    Much like poor old Mufasa, the Chicago Bulls are about to meet an unsightly end. The Bulls run of five titles in seven years is about to end courtesy of the Utah Jazz.

    Everything is aligned perfectly in Utah’s favor this year. There will be no Michael Jordan fist-pumping or scorer’s table jumping this time around.

    Jordan and Scottie Pippen already have enough rings for one hand anyway. Working a sixth ring into the collection would be a nuisance.

    It’s time for the Hall-of-Fame duo of Karl Malone and John Stockton to be fitted for one. Just one. An overdue ring that has been a long time coming.

    The Jazz will win, but not because they’re a team of destiny or anything like that. Destiny is too ethereal to rely on anyway, plus we’re talking about sports here.

    The Jazz will win because they’re the better team, and they have every conceivable advantage going in their favor.

    Utah will have been off for 10 days when the Finals begin, while Chicago has been toiling to overcome Indiana. The team with the most rest has won the Finals every year but once in the 1990s.

    Besides the rest factor, Chicago’s near loss to Indiana did a lot more for the Jazz. Sure Indiana has Reggie Miller and a few other good players, but do they even run an offense?

    Chicago’s fallibility was flaunted on a national stage against Larry Bird’s boys. Jordan missed shots at crunch time, and the Bulls more survived Game 7 than seized it. It’s like the first time Rocky drew blood from Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. “See, (they’re) not a machine!” The Bulls can be had.

    Utah has the homecourt advantage. For visiting opponents, playing in the Delta Center is equivalent to walking alone onto the stage midway through a raging AC/DC concert and telling everyone to go home. The crowd will eat you alive. Phil Jackson better bring some more ear plugs because Salt Lake will be rocking.

    Yes, Houston did steal a game at the Delta Center, but that was just the gangsta-slap the Jazz needed. It won’t happen again.

    The Jazz have Finals experience this time. Don’t forget that the wide-eyed Jazz lost three games in last year’s Finals by a total of just eight points. With the same team back this year, the Jazz won’t be satisfied to be there and they won’t be overwhelmed by the hype and pressure.

    Most importantly, the Jazz will win because, as I stated above, they have the best team. Malone is playing the best ball of his career, Stockton and Hornacek are solid, Bryon Russell is earning his money and the Jazz reserves are the best in the league. Coach Jerry Sloan masterminds the best-executing team in the business.

    Yes, Michael is still Michael. He is still the only NBA player with a word created solely to describe his brilliance: Jordanesque. Pippen is still great as well.

    But Russell, Shandon Anderson and Chris Morris match up as well as can be expected with those two, and Utah dominates the Bulls everywhere else.

    Dennis Rodman might go postal himself the way the Mailman has owned him over the years. Who else is going to guard Malone? Toni Kukoc, Luc Longley or Bill Wennington? Please.

    I’ve seen the title-clinching sequence in my mind several times. (Right after the “Lion King” stuff leaves). Jordan goes up for a J, only to be stuffed like a trophy deer by Russell.

    Stockton picks up the loose ball, leads the break and dishes to Malone for a hammer dunk-dagger straight into that big Bull heart. Greg Foster gives the throat-slashing sign, and Jordan staggers dumbfoundedly off the court as the Jazz players and the entire state of Utah erupt.

    It’s a nice vision isn’t it. Get ready to live it.

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