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Jazz 96, Sonics 76

May 25, 1996

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ There’s no sweeping the Utah Jazz.

Karl Malone, Jeff Hornacek and Bryon Russell had their best games of the Western Conference finals Friday night and Utah cut its deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-7 series with a 96-76 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics.

The win made Utah 7-0 at home in the playoffs, with all but the first victory coming by double-digit margins. The Jazz are 1-6 on the road in the postseason.

``It only takes one win on the road if you win all your home games,″ Hornacek said, ``but it’s disappointing that we play so well here and don’t carry it over on the road.

Game 4 is Sunday, and Utah will have a chance to send the series back to Seattle even. If the Jazz get repeats of the performances by Malone, Hornacek and Russell, such a scenario isn’t out of the question.

``They ran better than they have all series. If that happens again on Sunday, I think they’ll win the game. There was a lot of frustration out there,″ Sonics coach George Karl said.

``We won one game, but that doesn’t mean anything,″ Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. ``These guys don’t like to be embarrassed, and I know them better than anyone and never stopped believing in them. We just hope we come back hard play hard Sunday and see what happens.″

Malone had 28 points and 18 rebounds, Hornacek had 28 points and Russell, the last man off the bench at the end of the regular season, broke out of his two-game slump with a career-high 24 points.

The Sonics were undone by 27 turnovers, 28 fouls and a failure to hit clutch 3-pointers after they cut the deficit to six midway through the fourth quarter.

``I think a lot of people thought the series was over when we lost two down there,″ Hornacek said. ``We still have some work to do Sunday, but we feel pretty good. When you’re down 2-0 you have to pull everything out.″

Gary Payton led Seattle with 25 points and Detlef Schrempf had 17. Shawn Kemp, however, was saddled with foul trouble once again and barely had more points (10) than turnovers (eight).

The Sonics shot just 40 percent from the field _ the first time in the series they missed more shots than they made _ and were outrebounded 45-37.

Still, Seattle was right in the game after a 9-2 run over the first six minutes of the fourth quarter made it 80-74. But Malone dunked on a picturesque give-and-go with John Stockton, Schrempf missed consecutive 3-pointers, Russell buried a 3-pointer and Malone hit a jumper from the side to make it 87-74 with 3:40 left.

At that point, the Sonics seemed to realize the game was lost and they scored only two points the rest of the way. Utah outscored Seattle 24-11 in the final period after being outscored 51-26 in the fourth quarter of the first two games.

``He came out and gave us that lift that we needed,″ Malone said of Russell. ``We need different heroes every night. He was great.″

The game turned Utah’s way in the third quarter as Seattle went more than seven minutes without a field goal. Ervin Johnson scored on a fast break with 9:17 left to put the Sonics ahead 58-56, but Malone scored on a layup, Russell had a layup, steal and dunk in a space of 43 seconds and Utah went on a 16-5 run to open a 72-63 lead.

Malone had a jumper and two foul shots in a 6-0 run to open the fourth quarter that gave Utah a 13-point lead from which the Sonics were never able to recover.

``We have been playing great defense at home,″ Malone said. ``At home, we seem to get after people more.″

Russell’s 24 points helped Utah to a 28-8 advantage in bench scoring and helped allieviate another sub-par game by John Stockton, who was 2-for-9 from the field and 3-of-8 from the free throw line for seven points.

``We expected someone on their bench to hurt us,″ Karl said. ``We like Russell, and he was as high on that list as anyone.″

Early on, it looked like Payton’s emerging dominance was going to lead Seattle to a 3-0 lead in the series.

Payton had three 3-pointers in the first six minutes of the game _ all from the left corner as Stockton was late coming off screens _ as Seattle opened a 20-13 lead. Payton finished the quarter with 13 points, four rebounds and two assists.

But Seattle’s poise disappered in the second quarter as Nate McMillan and Vincent Askew drew technical fouls and Frank Brickowski was assessed a flagrant foul for elbowing Malone to the ground.

Of the first 26 fouls, 18 were called on the Sonics, but Utah didn’t take the lead until Hornacek pulled up for a 3-pointer with 2:13 left that made it 44-41.

Payton had 19 points in the half on 8-of-13 shooting and helped hold Stockton scoreless. Hornacek had 17 points and Malone 11 for Utah, which missed eight of 21 free throws but led 51-47 at halftime.

Notes: Trying to promote a ``No Respect for Utah″ theme, the Jazz hired Rodney Dangerfield to entertain the crowd dring a first-quarter timeout. His one off-color joke drew only a smattering of laughter from the Delta Center crowd. ... Seattle scored only 10 points on the fast break to Utah’s 18. ... The Jazz were whisted for five illegal defense technical fouls, and the refs could have called at least five more. ... Each team made six 3-pointers, but Seattle tried 25 to Utah’s 16.