The Jazz were saying all the right things Saturday, about how their Game 3 victory means zip if they lose today.
"We won one game," coach Jerry Sloan said. "It doesn't mean anything."And Friday night Sloan pointed out, "You start going around patting yourself on the back, you better have real long arms."
Acknowledging that the Game 3 victory was crucial, John Stockton said, "It's still crucial. They're all crucial. It's a very short season left and if you don't have all your concentration it could be even shorter."
Antoine Carr said he's so serious about the postseason he hasn't even given a thought to going fishing yet.
"I haven't even changed the line on my poles yet, so you know I'm not thinking about it," he said.
I'M OK: Stockton still doesn't want to talk injuries.
Karl Malone said after Game 3 that Stockton's injuries would put 95 percent of the players in this league out of action, but when asked about that comment after practice Saturday, the Jazz point guard said, "That's not true. He's going to stick up for his pal and I appreciate that. But that's all there is."
Stockton shot well in the San Antonio series - though it did seem like most of his makes came on layups off the pick-and-roll, rather than jumpers - but in two of three games against Seattle he's struggled. Combined, he's made nine of 27 shots - 33 percent. He's one for eight from the three-point line.
"This team doesn't rise or fall on whether I shoot well or not," he said.
Jazz assistant coach Gordon Chiesa said there may be factors other than injuries slowing Stockton.
"John is expending a lot of energy trying to contain Payton," Chiesa said. "And Payton's a tough cover."
Ultimately, Chiesa said, the Jazz are more interested in Stockton's playmaking ability than his shooting.
"If (Jeff) Hornacek shot poorly that would be different, because Hornacek's game is making shots," Chiesa said. "John will rise to the occasion. He always has."
CROWD COMMENTS: The Sonics give some credit to Delta Center fans for giving the Jazz an edge.
"Their fans are probably among the worst in the NBA (for a visiting team)," Shawn Kemp said. "They come prepared. They come energized. They sit right there behind your bench and they definitely get on you and ride you."
Seattle coach George Karl said the Delta Center is a place where "you know you're the enemy . . . I think Utah has the toughest gym in basketball (for visitors). Their fans come out and try to help them in any way possible."
NO PANIC?: You get the feeling from Karl that the Sonics weren't exactly shattered by the Game 3 loss.
"We hung around all night, overcoming some tough stuff," Karl said. "I don't think it was a 20-point game."
Karl is right, of course. It was a six-point game with six minutes left when a couple things went wrong for the Sonics and they appeared to pack it in, after a night of fairly intense hoops. Karl predicts things will get even more emotional.
"It's going to get more physical, more intense, more serious," he said. "We have to match their (the Jazz's) attitude before we even start thinking about Xs and Os."
Karl said the end of the Sonics' eight-game playoff streak came as no surprise.
"You're playing the best basketball teams in the world, you're going to lose a game," he noted.
TEMPO TALK: The Sonics are a running team, but the Jazz kept them from getting off the blocks in Game 3. Utah, not normally known as team that gets up and down the court, outscored Seattle on fast-break points, 18-10.
"They were the better-running team, and if that happens Sunday we'll lose again," Karl said.
But then he added, "I'd like to see the tempo of the game be a lot faster."
Karl also wants to see his team move the ball better. They did it spectacularly a couple of times Friday, but not consistently.
"We didn't pass the ball well enough to win," he said. "You build a rhythm by passing the ball, and we didn't pass the ball well enough to get rhythm in our shooting."