With a sweep of the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 1988 NBA Western Conference playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers advanced to the semifinals to take on the Utah Jazz in what turned out to be an epic seven-game battle.
The series tipped off on May 8, 1988, at The Forum, as the Lakers once again used homecourt to their advantage. Los Angeles quickly jumped out to a 16-point lead after one quarter of play, as Utah was held to just eight points in the opening 12 minutes.
That set a record-low for first quarter points scored in an NBA playoff game. The Lakers continued their offensive outburst against the Jazz in the second period, outscoring them by eight points and subsequently carried a 24-point lead into halftime.
Despite the Jazz playing considerably better in the second half, the Lakers’ relentless effort on both sides of the court allowed them to pull out a comfortable 110-91 victory in the opening bout.
James Worthy led the way offensively for Los Angeles, collecting a team-high 23 points with seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block in 38 minutes on the court.
Magic Johnson filled up the stat sheet as well, scoring 19 points while dishing out nine assists in 36 minutes. Byron Scott contributed 18 points while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar additionally registered a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes of action.
Despite the Jazz’s offensive struggles as a whole, Karl Malone still managed to score 29 points by himself on 12-of-25 shooting from the field. Thurl Bailey tallied 23 points off the bench, but other than that, Utah had no answer for Los Angeles’ smothering defense.
For the Lakers, the opening win loomed large as the Jazz proved to be a tougher matchup than anticipated. Los Angeles, of course, went on to defeat the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals, and later, the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals to capture their 11th championship.