Remembering the 1997 Western Conference Finals

"What a game", is all I could think after this classic thriller. In 1997, Utah was in position for their second real attempt at the Conference title, which was the last time we made it to the Western finals. After a long series, John Stockton, Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz take on the Houston Rockets’ big three of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and Charles Barkley.

Stockton and Malone ran the pick and roll quite effectively, scoring 25 and 24 points respectively. Charles Barkley was quite effective in drawing fouls, attempting 13 free throws throughout the game. This was adding that much more fuel to the fire of a raging jazz fan such as myself. In other areas, Greg Ostertag grabbed plenty of rebounds for the Jazz before fouling out in the fourth quarter (thanks to a flop by Barkley). Jeff Hornacek was responsible for some key passes, layups, and three-pointers. Drexler was hot from the 3 point line at points throughout the game. Houston led the jazz for the most of the game, and all together playing better functioning basketball.

What really made the game was the intensity of the 4th quarter run by Utah, which brought the game to a tie at 100-100 with two to three minutes left in the fourth quarter. The jazz held the Rockets to just two points during a 12 point run, which set the game up for the most exciting moment in the series…

In the last 45 seconds of the game, John Stockton rabbited right up the middle of the floor and hit a mid-range, off-balance floater to tie the game, with plenty of contact from Clyde Drexler. Cameras pan to the benches as Houston calls a time-out. Then, for some odd reason, NBC seemed to have misplaced the last 22 seconds or so of the fourth quarter, and we missed a key part: Drexler screamed through the lane, and planked a shot right off the rim and into a Jazz timeout with two-ish seconds on the clock.

After the last timeout of the game, the ball is inbounded to Stockton just in front of the half court line. And due to poor coverage, the defense allowed him to pull up with plenty of room at a tie game, to hit the game-winning three-pointer at the regulation buzzer. The ball snapped perfectly through the net as Stockton earned is 25th point, and showed perhaps the most emotion of his career; he was jumping up and down ecstatically with his teammates. For this meant they were to face Chicago for a 1996 NBA Finals Rematch, and seek redemption at the title once again.

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