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The Utah Jazz closed out their regular season Sunday afternoon picking up speed as they went. Karl Malone was bulling his way around the basket, as fresh as if coming off a week's vacation. John Stockton was at his textbook best, setting the Mailman up inside with soft lobs and one-handed flicks. Jeff Malone's radar-assisted fadeaway was accurate as ever.

The regular season may be over, but don't tell the Jazz. Just step to the right so nobody gets hurt.Having clinched the division title over a week ago, Sunday's game simply served to add icing to the cake. The Jazz wrapped up the year with a 101-90 victory over the Spurs, their seventh straight win. It also clinched the home-court advantage through the first two rounds of the NBA Playoffs.

As they say in the commercials, it doesn't get any better than this.

Except, of course, in the playoffs.

While the game was close until the final six minutes, it could be no surprise to the Spurs that they would eventually lose. It's been that kind of month in the Alamo City. The game was supposed to decide the Midwest Division title when the schedule was made last summer, but ended up something less. The Jazz won the race with eight games to spare.

The Spurs, however, weren't thinking about what could have been. "No. I kinda gave that up a long time ago," said Spurs' forward Terry Cummings. "My biggest goal was to play hard every night and be in a position to win at the end."

One couldn't blame Cummings for being less than enthused. It was a truly star-crossed year for the enigmatic Spurs. Coach Larry Brown was fired in January, turning the reins over to assistant Bob Bass for the rest of the year. All-Star David Robinson went down 14 games ago with a thumb injury. Friday starting guard Willie Anderson underwent bone graft surgery to repair stress fractures and Paul Pressey was out the last five games with a bruised lower back.

"The division title has been out of sight for some time," added Cummings.

Stricken though they were, the Spurs seriously endangered the Jazz's plans for most of Sunday afternoon. In the absence of Robinson, veteran Antoine Carr banged and pushed his way to 18 points. Cummings turned in a fine 21-point performance and presented the Mailman his only defensive resistance of the night. Sean Elliott and Strickland also totaled double figures.

But down the stretch, they couldn't hold back the charging Jazz. After leading by nine in the third quarter, the Spurs began to fade.

"We just got tired," sighed Spurs' interim coach Bob Bass. "Just tired."

Most of the wear-and-tear came compliments of the Mailman. Though the Spurs held him to a respectable 10 points the first half, nobody got in his way after that. Cummings wore out, Carr couldn't stay with him and Sidney Green had more fouls (four) than points (three).

"Terry was the only guy who did a good job on him," said Bass.

Led by Malone, who had 16 points in the third quarter and 34 for the night, the Jazz staged their comeback, going ahead 65-64 by outscoring the Spurs 12-2.

The game remained close until the Jazz initiated another 12-2 run to move ahead 95-85. Stockton landed the crucial shot, a three-pointer with 4:05 to go and followed with a pass to Malone for the dunk.

"We hung in there, basically," said Stockton. "We hadn't done such a great job setting screens and playing through screens. Those things aren't so fun, but they're a valuable part of the game."

From then on, the Spurs never really threatened, casting up desperate long shots and fouling to catch up.

While the Mailman was the key scorer, help came from a variety of places. Stockton contributed 21 assists and 17 points. Jeff Malone scored 18 points and Tyrone Corbin scored 12 and collected 10 rebounds off the bench.

Considering the Jazz's strong finish on the season - including a record-tying 55-win year - the Jazz couldn't help but feel optimistic about the playoffs coming up. They begin Friday at the Delta Center against the L.A. Clippers.

"The last game of the season on the road is always tough to win," said center Mark Eaton. "Our record over the years hasn't been the greatest in that situation. I guess that's a sign of maturity of the team's part."

Said Malone, "Pretty much all year we've had our doubters. People had a lot of doubts that we could come down here and win. But we didn't quit just because we won the division."

He continued, "Nobody did the job for us. We did it for ourselves."

GAME NOTES: Stockton finished the year leading the NBA in assists and steals. Karl Malone finished second in scoring (28.0) and eighth in rebounding (11.3) . . . The seven wins to end the season constituted the Jazz's best finish ever.