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JAZZ BASKING IN THE PLAYOFF SUN

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It's obvious in their eyes and in their body language - the Utah Jazz are feeling good about themselves. So good, they think they're playing their best basketball of the year, and at an opportune time.

The Jazz moved into the second round of the Western Conference playoffs with a 95-90 win over the Spurs Thursday night at the Delta Center. The victory was their third straight after being blown out in Game 1 at the Alamodome last week. Next up is a Monday or Tuesday game against the winner of the Seattle-Denver series. If Seattle wins, it is likely the Jazz will open at Seattle Center Coliseum Monday night."The last three games is the best I've ever seen us play," said forward Karl Malone.

Although the Jazz finished strong, their first-round series with the Spurs was an exercise in extremes. In Game 1 the Jazz trailed by 27 and lost by 17. In Game 2 they led by 30 and won by 12. In game 3 they led by 37 and won by 33. And in the finale, the teams finally got down to a playoff-type contest, with the Jazz winning by five.

"That's more like playoff games are supposed to be," said center Felton Spencer.

Over the series, the Jazz and Spurs broke numerous records, mostly for futility. The Jazz set playoff lows for field goals in a game (30, Game 1) and field goal percentage in a quarter (.280, Game 2). But those were only the problems the Jazz had. The Spurs set numerous playoff opponent records, including fewest points in a game , fewest points in a quarter (nine), fewest field goals in a game , half and quarter (two), lowest field goal percentage in a game (.318), fewest assists in a game and fewest assists in a half (six).

Perhaps the most interesting of all the records was the Spurs' 25 consecutive missed shots in Game 2.

Although the Spurs obviously couldn't make baskets in the series - they converted just 40 percent of their shots - the Jazz defense had something to do with San Antonio's offensive problems. Malone held Spurs' center David Robinson to 36 percent shooting through the first three games. And Spurs' swingman Dale Ellis - bogged down by a sore arch - made just seven of 24 shots before breaking out with a 24-point night in Game 4.

"I think defense definitely paid off for us in this series. We knew going in to it that we would have to step out on a lot of their guys. Everyone helped out pretty well on defense. Without a doubt, when we play defense like that we are capable of beating anyone," said Malone.

The Jazz got Friday off and were scheduled to resume practice today at Westminster College. But Malone said he isn't going to be glued to the television set to see the outcome of the Denver-Seattle game today.

"No, heck no," he said. "I wouldn't pay to watch basketball at all if I wasn't a player."

Asked if he is a basketball fan, he replied, "No. I'm not. I play the game because I love it. But I wouldn't walk up and buy a ticket."