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The top 10 greatest moments in Utah Jazz playoff history: No. 6-4

The top 10 greatest moments in Utah Jazz playoff history: No. 6-4

(Kristan Jacobsen/Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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Editor's note: The following is part two of a three-part series highlighting the 10 greatest moments in Utah Jazz playoff history.SALT LAKE CITY — Having revealed four of the greatest moments in Jazz playoff history, we now continue the countdown by delving into Utah's history as a contender in the Western Conference Semifinals. Remember, rankings are listed in descending order, with the highest rated moments coming last.

6. 1997 Conference Semifinals: Utah (64-18) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (56-26)

The result: Utah wins series 4-1

The heroes: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Bryon Russell, Kobe Bryant (Game 5), Jeff Hornacek, Antoine Carr

The villains: Shaquille O'Neal, Nick Van Exel, Robert Horry, Kobe Bryant (not including Game 5), Byron Scott

Why important:

The Lakers came into the series having just steamrolled the Trail Blazers, thanks in large part to Shaquile O'Neal's 33.0 ppg performance in round one. Utah defended him tough and managed to lower that number down to 22.0 ppg for the series, a huge key in sending the Lakers packing after only five games.

Key moment:

Kobe Bryant makes a special guest appearance on the Jazz's greatest playoff memory tour, as the 18-year-old rookie air balls not one, not two, not three but four critical shot attempts down the stretch of Game 5. Those misses include a would-be game-winner and a shot that would've tied the game four seconds remaining in overtime.

5. 2007 Conference Semifinals (Game 2): Utah (51-31) vs. Golden State (42-40)

The result: Utah wins series 4-1

The heroes: Derek Fisher, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur

The villains: Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes

Why important:

Golden State entered the series fresh off an unprecedented 8-over-1 playoff upset of league MVP Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.

Complicating matters was the Game 2 absence of veteran guard Derek Fischer, who was still on his way back from taking his 11-month-old daughter on an emergency East Coast medical trip. Fischer's absence was further magnified after a neck injury left Utah's third-string point guard Dee Brown incapacitated.

The outside storylines and adverse conditions set up Fischer's late-game entrance as if it were straight out of a Disney movie.

And the climax wouldn't disappoint.

Key moment:

After somehow crawling back from down five with 52 seconds left, the Jazz had forced overtime and were leading 120-117 with 1:09 to go. Deron Williams was able to find Fischer open in the corner for a game-clinching three, allowing Utah to take a 2-0 stranglehold on the series.

That bucket capped a magical 10 minutes of game play that forever cemented Fischer's legacy as one of the most beloved players in Jazz basketball history. It didn't matter that he would ultimately leave Utah two months later to pursue a top medical treatment for his daughter. Hitting that shot ensured Fischer nothing short of a hero's welcome when he returned to Salt Lake, even if it meant seeing him in a different jersey.

Well … unless that jersey was purple and gold … or if Kobe Bryant was also somehow involved. That would just be awkward.

4. 1998 Conference Semifinals: Utah (62-20) vs. San Antonio (56-26)

The result: Utah wins series 4-1

The heroes: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Bryon Russell, Jeff Hornacek

The villains: Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Avery Johnson, Gregg Popovich

Why important:

The 1998 Tim Duncan very much resembled the 2003 Tim Duncan, or the 2008 Tim Duncan, or pretty much any one of the 18 versions of Duncan we've seen throughout an astonishingly consistent career. Throw future hall-of-fame center David Robinson and second-year coach Gregg Popovich into the mix and you've got yourself a pretty formidable Spurs team.

And that's exactly what the Jazz found themselves dealing with as San Antonio took a late lead in both opening games at the Delta Center. Game 1 saw the Spurs go up 82-81 with 1:23 in the fourth and Game 2 featured a similar 98-96 Jazz deficit with only 30 seconds remaining.

Given those two situations, the Spurs had an approximate 90.9 percent chance of heading back to San Antonio with at least a 1-1 series split. But the Jazz came back to win in both instances, thanks to some late-game heroics from Karl Malone.

Key moment:

Down 98-96 with only 19 seconds remaining in Game 2, Malone takes a John Stockton bounce pass and drives around Duncan's clumsy defensive play. He meets a leaping Robinson at the bottom of the key and is able to power the ball in for the bucket, foul, and bonus Popovich sideline tantrum.

Malone would miss the go-ahead free throw, but the Jazz ultimately prevailed 109-106 in overtime to take a 2-0 series lead.


Alex Clark is a sports writing intern for KSL.com. He currently studies digital journalism at BYU. Email: alclark35@gmail.com, Twitter: alclark35

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