If those were the real Sonics and the real Jazz out there Saturday, Karl Malone can start booking that safari he's always talking about.
Seattle, looking frisky after a five-day layoff, positively pummeled the Jazz in the first game of the Western Conference Finals at Key Arena, 102-72. It was Utah's worst playoff defeat ever, and lowest playoff score ever.Now they know what it feels like to be a Spur.
The only thing the Jazz were in sync on all day was general agreement that they've never seen the Sonics this good.
"I haven't, especially not against us," said Jazz forward Karl Malone.
"They played tremendous today," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "I don't think I've seen them play better this year."
Seattle coach George Karl expressed amazement at his team's 30-point win.
"It was a shocking game to me," he said. "I didn't think that would happen. It's difficult to beat a team like Utah by a lot of points."
Seattle did it by smothering Jazz point guard John Stockton, by keeping Malone under control until the game was out of reach, by playing a swarming brand of defense in which it appeared there was a Sonic in the face of every Utah shooter, a Sonic hand on every ball, three Sonic rebounders for every one Jazzman.
"I looked at the film (Friday), and as quick as they are it looked like they had six guys out there," Sloan said. "Today it looked like they had 10 guys guarding us."
"On 'D' we didn't do anything different than when we played them during the season," said Sonics forward Detlef Schrempf.
Maybe not, but they certainly did it better. They limited the Jazz to 39.5 percent shooting from the field, 14.3 percent (2 of 14) from the three-point line.
Amazingly, the first quarter actually started promisingly for the Jazz. Jeff Hornacek hit a couple of catch-and-shoot jumpers, Chris Morris scored six of Utah's first 12 points, and at the buzzer Utah trailed by a mere point, 24-23.
The Jazz opened the second quarter with a 6-0 spurt to take a 26-24 lead, and then the Sonics went nuts. They outscored the Jazz 30-10 the rest of the way, led by Shawn Kemp's 11 points. That alone was a seriously bad omen for this series. Kemp has always played against Utah like Malone's little brother. This time he was spinning and shooting over the Mailman like he'd grown up. On one play, he backed Malone under the basket, turned and dunked, like Shaquille O'Neal overpowering Christian Laettner.
The killer stretch for the Jazz in that second quarter occurred in the final minute, when they were down by just eight, 47-39. Schrempf was fouled and made the first of two free throws, and on the miss two Jazzmen fumbled the ball to Kemp, who scored on a three-footer and was fouled. He missed his foul shot, too, but Ervin Johnson tipped the ball into the hoop. A few seconds later, Kemp outrebounded Greg Ostertag and scored on another putback for a 54-39 halftime lead - and an even bigger momentum advantage.
"That really took the air out of us," Sloan acknowledged.
At the half, the Sonics had outrebounded Utah 24-8, much to Sloan's disgust.
"I told our guys they looked like robins in a nest, with their mouths open, waiting for rebounds to drop into their mouths," the Jazz coach said.
The Jazz never threatened in the second half. Once they got in front, the Sonics started drilling three-pointers to stay there. Midway through the fourth quarter, as the Utah starters sat on the bench, grim-faced, Seattle buried five straight threes, after which Johnson cherry-picked for a dunk.
Asked what he told his team in the locker room afterward, Sloan said, "I didn't tell them anything. I didn't have anything to say after a game like that."
Malone finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists. Hornacek was the only other Jazzman in double figures, with 13. The Jazz bench made eight of 23 shots (34.8 percent). Stockton made just two of 10 shots for four points, with seven assists.
Karl said it was his team's goal to contain Stockton.
"We took away his penetration," he said. "His two shots in the first half were difficult shots. They were off-balance, high-arcers."
Kemp and Gary Payton led the Sonics with 21 points apiece. Four other Sonics scored in double figures. Seattle shot 54.7 percent from the field.
Game 2 is here Monday, and the Jazz are hoping Game 1 will have roused them.
"If anything's going to wake you up, this should," Malone said.