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NBA PLAYOFFS / GAME 4, PHOENIX 117, LAKERS 98

Like L.A. Fans, NBC Is Late

Pro basketball: Network misses part of Laker first quarter because earlier game runs long.

May 15, 2000|LARRY STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Viewers may not care whether NBC puts microphones on coaches or cameras in locker rooms, but they certainly care if they miss more than half of the first quarter of a Laker playoff game.

That's what happened Sunday when NBC did not pick up the Lakers' game at Phoenix until 7:03 had elapsed. The Suns led, 17-15, at the time.

The earlier game between the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers ran long and wasn't decided until a three-point shot at the buzzer by Portland's Greg Anthony bounced off the rim.

Meanwhile, the tipoff for the Lakers and Suns was held up for nine minutes, the maximum allowed by the NBA.

That still wasn't enough, and making matters worse was that NBC went to several commercial breaks and had reporter Paul Sunderland do a postgame interview with Jeff Hornacek and Karl Malone of the Jazz before switching to the Lakers and Suns.

Why didn't NBC switch to the Laker game immediately, at least in Los Angeles and Phoenix?

"L.A. is too big of a market, we have to fulfill our commercial obligations," NBC spokesman Kevin Sullivan said. "If it was, say, Salt Lake and Phoenix, then switching to the local markets right away might have been a possibility."

OK, but why the postgame interview, even though it was brief?

"We felt the interview with Hornacek, who may be retiring, and Malone to be significant and newsworthy," Sullivan said. "It may well have been the last game Hornacek will ever play in Salt Lake City."

Channel 4 reported only about two dozen complaint calls.

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