10 seasons ago, the Utah Jazz visited the United Center and defeated the Chicago Bulls 92-80 behind stifling defense, an efficient half-court offense, and the brilliant all-around play of 3rd-year forward Andrei Kirilenko.
Playing on a back-to-back as well as the final game of a marathon 6-game in 9-nights roadtrip, the 14-13 Jazz came out and pounced on the 7-18 Bulls early – outscoring them 27-14 in the 1st-quarter and 52-35 in the 1st-half before cruising in the final 24-minutes.
The 22-year old Kirilenko scored a game-high 26 points to go with 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal in 37-minutes of play. AK shot 9-13 from the field, 6-6 from the FT line and 2-3 from behind the arc.
Following an empty offseason that began with the departures of John Stockton and Karl Malone, virtually all the experts were lining up to pick the Utah Jazz as the worst team in the league.
ESPN’s Marc Stein ranked the Jazz dead-last, writing “Poor Sloan and the Jazz faithful are in for a culture shock.” ESPN contributor Frank Hughes wrote the Jazz “could be the worst team in NBA history.” He further elaborated, saying ,”I don’t mean like Clippers’ bad. I mean like 9-win Philadelphia 76ers bad.” ESPN’s Chad Ford wrote even the acquisition of Keon Clark (who played just 2 games for Utah) “won’t be enough to keep Utah from having the worst record in the league.”
Fortunately for Utah, the Jazz still had longtime coaches Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson to head up a staff that also included Gordon Chiesa and Kenny Natt. Together, in the foursome’s 8th NBA season together as a coaching staff, they worked near-basketball miracles taking a cast comprised largely of no-name players and shocking the NBA by winning 42-games and finishing just 1-win shy of making the playoffs.