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None of that matters to Maravich, who is truly happy to be playing in New Orleans with Truck. "He is exactly what this team has never had," says the Pistol. "Consistency up front. On certain nights he's just devastating. We need rebounds to run, and we need to run to win. If Truck is sick or doesn't feel like playing on a particular night, we're in trouble."
Still, the Jazz has always been, and will remain, Maravich's team. He can get 50 points almost any night he chooses. But at 29 he has still not gotten over his occasional bratty habits of crying to officials, ignoring open men to shoot from 25 feet or screaming at less talented teammates when his often miraculous passes bounce off their faces.
Then, a few weeks ago, with the Jazz in the throes of an 0-5 road trip, Maravich was accused in the papers by an unnamed teammate of "not making sacrifices" and further criticized for getting "shut down" in a three-point loss to the Knicks in New York. In that game he made only four of 20 shots and refused to shoot in the tight fourth quarter.
Back under the Dome two nights later, Maravich played the martyr. "If they want me to sacrifice, I'll sacrifice," he said. He shot five times, passing up even uncontested layups. He made four field goals and handed out 15 assists as the Jazz beat Seattle 127-116 to snap the slump. But the boos that accompanied this performance ended Pete's sulk. A win at Houston followed, with the Pistol hitting 19 of 33 for 39 points.
Against Indiana last week Robinson and Kelley all but shattered the backboards. Truck ripped down 11 rebounds in the first period, 22 in the game, and scored 28 points, while Kelley had 19 rebounds and Maravich tossed in a routine 34 points.
On Thanksgiving night 14,448 fans saw the Jazz engage Denver in a no-defense, wild-turkey shootout. Trailing 129-127 with nine seconds left the Jazz worked the ball to Robinson, who swished a 20-footer over Bobby Jones to tie the score. Then, as the Nuggets' Brian Taylor brought the ball up for the last shot, McElroy slapped it away and Maravich glided home with the winning layup as time elapsed. A 28-point, 16-rebound game for Robinson, 17 rebounds for Kelley, 31 points for Pistol Pete.
Even before the excitement died down, the Jazz cast hungry glances at the 70,000 seats theoretically available to them in the Superdome and were heard to whisper the word "playoffs." The Dome is already the site of the largest crowd in NBA history (27,383 against Philadelphia last year) and the league's cheapest ticket ($1.50), and one team official said that crowds upward of 40,000 might not be too much to expect for future dates with Philadelphia and Portland. Burbled P.A. announcer Bob Longmire, who doubles as the team's sales director, "Can anyone possibly imagine what would happen to this place if we really got 40.000 people in here?" Yes, the Dome would take off for sure.