The Seattle SuperSonics and Utah Jazz showed all the symptoms of post-rout syndrome Sunday.
The winners smiled, shrugged it off and said it can't possibly happen again. The losers assumed a more dour look, shook their heads and promised better things.The moods, tones and body language of the Western Conference finalists were exactly as one would expect one day after Seattle clobbered Utah 102-72 in the opener of the best-of-7 series. Game 2 is Monday night.
"We know it's a fluke. We played very well, they played poorly," Seattle coach George Karl said after putting his team through a 90-minute practice a few blocks from Key Arena.
"I said before the series that Utah's not a team you blow out, they have more talent to blow you out. They're a control basketball team. They control you, they know how to handle you, they know what they want from you, they know what they're going to get from you and they're very clever."
That, however, was not the way things went in Game 1. The Sonics let the Jazz hang around for about 17 minutes, then broke open the game with 3-point shooting, rebounding and hustle. By the fourth quarter, it was a laugher.
In the All-Star vs. All-Star matchups, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton had a distinct edge over Karl Malone and John Stockton. Kemp went 10-for-11 from the floor, had 21 points and 11 rebounds with only two turnovers despite being guarded by Malone.
Malone, who was single-covered for 20 of his 33 minutes by lanky Ervin Johnson, had four turnovers and missed 5-of-6 free throws while scoring 21 points.
The gap between Payton and Stockton was greater. Payton had 21 points, seven assists and three steals while Stockton had only four points on 2-of-10 shooting, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
"Stockton's going to have a great game, he'll probably have three or four in the series," Karl said. "Gary won the matchup last night, and Shawn won his matchup last night. But it's all even at 0-0 tomorrow, and their pride and hearts are definitely going to be out there on the basketball court."
Kemp and Payton avoided the media after practice, leaving their coach to speak for them.
"In playoff basketball, you win games because of big-time performances, and sometimes you only need a half of one," Karl said. "We won because of Shawn Kemp's not only offensive performance, but his rebounding and hustle game in the first half, his energy more than anything else."
The Jazz said they needed to give Malone more help defensively against Kemp, who often got the ball deep in the low post after only a few seconds had elapsed off the 24-second clock.
Kemp scored mostly from within five feet, and he made his moves while keeping the ball over his head, avoiding Malone's knack for knocking the ball loose when his opponent holds the ball low.
"Maybe the guys could have dropped in there and given him a little bit of help," coach Jerry Sloan said. "All a guy's got to do is take two steps and turn (Kemp) inside. If you stay there and don't move out of your tracks, you're not going to help anybody.
"We had the same thing with (Arvydas) Sabonis and David Robinson, and they're going to beat you if you don't get a little bit of help - or at least let him know there are other people out there on the floor."
The Jazz will also have to deal with the home crowd at Key Arena. A day after Karl said Malone takes as long as 17 seconds to shoot his free throws (the NBA limit is 10 seconds), the sellout crowd of 17,702 responded by chanting to 10 when Malone went to the line.
The only time Malone made a foul shot was after the count reached 10, although he denied he heard the crowd.
"It's just one of those things where everybody wants to get the upper edge," Malone said. "If you guys wouldn't have told me (about the count), I wouldn't have known what was going on."
Game 2 seems to be a poison number for the Sonics, who have lost seven of their last 10 Game 2s.
"Teams know that you've got to get a win," Karl said. "Going down 2-0 is a very difficult position to be in. And you're looking at a team with two Hall of Famers out there that know what's going on. It'll be a war out there; it'll be a big-time battle."