Flat Sonics get flattened by Jazz


SALT LAKE CITY -- Too much rest and too much Karl Malone was the recipe of defeat for the Seattle SuperSonics last night, as they fell 108-100 to the Utah Jazz in the opening game of a second-round NBA playoff series.

The decision came before 19,911 towel-waving customers in the deluxe and at times deafening Delta Center.

It was Seattle's first game since last Thursday's victory over Golden State that clinched the first-round series. Utah, meanwhile, had played Sunday and Monday and the Jazz had an energy and cohesion that the Sonics were obviously without.

"There's no question that we weren't the team that we were against Golden State," Sonics coach George Karl said.

"We definitely came out flat," added Seattle's Ricky Pierce. "I was thinking we might be semi-flat, but we were a lot flatter than I expected. We were standing an awful lot and we kept clogging up the middle offensively."

Malone, meanwhile, was turning in a typical devastating performance. He scored 30 points, including 16 in the decisive fourth quarter when Utah took the game in hand.

"We're just taking it one game at a time," Malone said. "We know we've still got a job to do."

The win reversed a glaring blemish on Utah's NBA-best 41-4 home record during the regular season -- a pair of losses to the SuperSonics at the Delta Center.

"That was the regular season and, now, that doesn't mean a thing. This is the playoffs. This is when it's important," Malone said.

The two teams meet here again tomorrow night, with Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-seven series Sunday and Tuesday in Seattle.

One of the few bright moments for the Sonics was a 17-2 run late in the third quarter that gave them a 74-73 lead to take into the final period. It was a brief advantage, though, as the Jazz scored eight points to open the fourth quarter.

Eddie Johnson, who had 14 points off the bench, was confident the Sonics can rebound in Game 2.

"It's a long series. Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes," he said. "I'm very encouraged because we didn't shoot the ball well and we still only lost by eight."

Malone, called "The Mailman" because he always delivers, came through handsomely in the fourth quarter. Malone scored six straight points early in the period to put Utah in front to stay, and he finished the quarter with 16 points, five rebounds, two steals, two assists and a blocked shot.

Guard John Stockton contributed 16 points and 15 assists, and forward Tyrone Corbin dropped in 23 points off the bench. Guard Jeff Malone added 22 points.

"It's a tremendous win for us, but we know it's just one game and far from over," said Corbin.

For the Sonics -- led by Derrick McKey's 20 points and Shawn Kemp's 19 points and 15 rebounds -- it may have been a case of too much rest.

"I don't like to have time off when you're playing well," Karl said. "You never get six days off in the NBA."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad