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Jazz Not Feeling Like a Kingpin

NBA playoffs: Utah, looking its age, is taken into overtime by scrappy Sacramento before winning, 99-92, in decisive Game 5.

May 17, 1999|J.A. ADANDE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SALT LAKE CITY — It was the type of series that left you wanting more. Even extra minutes weren't enough.

The Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz went to overtime for the second time in their best-of-five Western Conference playoff series and the fifth time in their eight meetings this season, and it never got old.

On Sunday, this captivating battle provided one more example of what made this series so great, with the young, brave Kings pushing the savvy, aging Jazz to the limit before Utah finally prevailed, 99-92.

That finally finished off the Kings, three games to two. The Jazz will face the Portland Trail Blazers in a best-of-seven series that begins here Tuesday.

There was a lot of respect for the Kings coming out of the Jazz locker room, and a little bit of appreciation for the way they made things so fun.

"I think it was one of the best series I've been a part of," Karl Malone said.

The Kings probably don't think it's over. After all, they haven't followed orders or decorum for the whole series. They beat one of the toughest home-court defenders in the league at the Delta Center in Game 2, then had the audacity to take a 2-1 lead over the two-time defending Western Conference champions.

After letting a potential series-clinching Game 4 slip through their grasp in Sacramento on Friday night, the Kings were supposed to be too demoralized to put up another fight.

Sunday, they created the worst possible scenario for themselves--falling behind early and letting the Delta Center crowd work itself into a frenzy. And yet the Kings came back to have the game and the series in their hands, on a play that unfolded as designed.

The score was tied at 88 when the Kings came out of a timeout with 9.2 seconds remaining in regulation. They got the ball to Vlade Divac, who came through the lane and missed a hook shot just before time expired.

In the overtime, the Kings reverted to the bad habits that have always made them as much a threat to themselves as they are to their opponents. They committed four turnovers in their first six possessions and the Jazz took a seven-point lead.

The Kings were out of comebacks, out of time in what had been a special week.

"It's a shame," said Jon Barry, who languished on the bench for the Lakers last season but played a pivotal role in the series and Sunday's game with 14 points. "We really felt like we deserved the series.

"I hope they win. If they're the world champions, they know they got a handful from the Sacramento Kings. This is a team that came out of nowhere and really proved ourselves, that we're going to be a team to contend with in the years to come."

With an aging core group that's coming up for free agency, time is a luxury the Jazz can't afford. At one point its future was down to those 9.2 seconds that the Kings had the ball. Had Divac made that shot, "It would have been the last of the Utah Jazz as we know them," Utah's Shandon Anderson said.

Anderson helped keep the Jazz together by scoring 16 points. Jeff Hornacek rejoined the series with 18 points and a scrappy six rebounds, and a hobbling Bryon Russell had 16 points. That helped make up for a quiet offensive day by Malone (20 points on six-for-16 shooting).

It wasn't a good day for the point guards.

Stockton missed his first seven shots and finished one for 12. But the crafty guard kept finding ways to get fouled and get to the free-throw line, where he made 10 of 11 to finish with 12 points.

"That's not cheating," Sacramento forward Chris Webber said. "That's using your advantage."

Stockton also had 14 assists.

Jason Williams couldn't find a way to contribute for the Kings. He made only one field goal, a fast-break layup in the third quarter. Only on the wacky Kings could a coach look for stability by replacing his erratic rookie with the flammable Vernon Maxwell.

Maxwell is a guy who had nothing better to do than hang out at Clipper games at the Arrowhead Pond last season before catching on for a short stint with the Charlotte Hornets, a guy who spent the last postseason in jail serving a 45-day sentence for marijuana possession, a guy who wears band-aids adorned with cartoon characters when he plays.

He also happened to be the only player on the court with a championship ring, courtesy of the 1993-94 Houston Rockets.

Maxwell led all scorers with 22 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter.

The game began with the type of feisty and physical tone that has come to define this series. There were three technical fouls dished out in the first two minutes.

The Jazz players did a better job of keeping their composure and took a 13-3 lead. The Kings climbed back to within eight, then used an 11-2 run at the start of the second quarter to take the lead.

Utah stayed poised and took another double-digit lead in the third quarter, but Maxwell brought the Kings back. His three-point basket put the Kings ahead, 84-81, with 2:11 remaining. They held that lead until Russell made a three-point shot with 48.5 seconds left to save Utah's season.

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