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PRIME TIME'S FOR PRIME TEAMS - NOT JAZZ, SONICS

One thing the Jazz and Sonics can agree on is that the West playoff teams are getting the cold shoulder from the NBA scheduling folks.

From a strictly humanitarian standpoint, wouldn't it have made more sense to let the Jazz have one day off and play on Sunday, instead of putting the Bulls and Magic - both of whom concluded their second-round series several days ago - in that slot? Scheduling aside, the Jazz and Sonics know that most of the country has more interest in the Chicago-Orlando series, which means TV has more interest, which means its Bulls-Magic on Sunday, the bigger TV day.Asked if that were the case, Utah's Karl Malone said, "Well, yeah, of course. Nobody's talking about this Western Conference. Prime time is for prime teams. We're just out here in the West. We don't play good basketball. We don't have any good athletes."

"Tell (the skeptics) to look to the West," said Sonics guard Hersey Hawkins. "There are some teams out here that can play a little."

ENOUGH ALREADY: One "issue" that will get some attention during this series is the allegations by Seattle guard Nate McMillan that the Jazz play dirty. He made that statement earlier in the season, specifically about John Stockton and Adam Keefe, but has since tried to mellow his comments by saying he meant they played physical.

He was given another chance in Friday's Tacoma News Tribune.

"They hit you, they grind you, they do what it takes to win a game," McMillan said. "John Stockton and Karl Malone are very physical. They want to slow down the game and force you to play their type of game. It can frustrate you. The thing to do is to respond to their physical play without letting it frustrate you."

McMillan watched the Jazz's Game 6 victory over San Antonio, then said, "That's what you saw tonight. Avery Johnson frustrated. Sean Elliott frustrated and David Robinson in foul trouble. That will frustrate you, you getting hit but the referee is seeing it when you hit them. They try to take you out of your game without talking trash, which is sort of unheard of. They do it by being physical."

Stockton's reaction to McMillan's comments? "That's water under the bridge. It's over with and it's time to let that go."

TEMPO TALK: The Jazz know that one of the keys to Seattle's success has been an ability to control the tempo of games. It's something Utah has been good at, too, and this series might be decided by which team is better at it.

"Seattle's the kind of team that would love to get out and run," Malone said. "They'd love for you to take quick shots. They'd love for you to get in an up-and-down game with them. But they also can execute their halfcourt offfense."

Seattle's defense is the key to their run-and-gun approach. They scramble and gamble, trying to get the other team to play the same way.

"They're going to do a lot of things to take us out of our offense," said Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek. "But if we play smart we'll get open shots."

QUOTEBOOK: Some miscellaneous playoff prattle:

- Stockton, on reports he and Payton don't get along: "Gary and I get along very well. I've never had any problems with Gary. We compete, heck yeah, he gets after it and I think I get after it, but that's more respect than dislike."

- Sloan, on why he'll continue to start Chris Morris over David Benoit at small forward: "Chris is maybe a little better offensive rebounder. He can put the ball on the floor a little bit more."

- Jazz forward Adam Keefe, on how he'll fit in against Sonics: "I don't know if I'll play 30 minutes or not play at all. I've learned to expect the unexpected."

- Malone on Seattle counterpart Shawn Kemp: "If he's not the best power forward, he's definitely right up there. He's doing everything now everybody said he would do."

- Jazz forward Felton Spencer, on whether he was surprised by play of Utah's bench: "Nope. We've got guys on our team who just needed the opportunity. They're not big names but they're talented players."

- Seattle's Vincent Askew, on what makes the Spurs soft: "Not showing up on the road," he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "The main guys shooting jumpers. Charles Smith at power forward. I like that matchup, Smith against Shawn (Kemp). Sean Elliott, where is he (in series against Jazz)? It can't be talent because he's got a lot of talent."

- Sonics coach George Karl: "If Orlando plays with an energy, they can beat Chicago."

SHORT STUFF: The Jazz have been named one of four teams to participate in NBA Challenge '96, the league's annual preseason event in Mexico, to be played Oct. 26-20 in Mexico City. The other teams are Cleveland, Phoenix and Dallas.