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JAZZ FRANTICALLY SEARCHING FOR A SONIC SOLUTION

Greg Foster is a sign the Utah Jazz are still scrambling to solve the Seattle SuperSonics.

Prior to Game 4 on Sunday, Foster had played 16 minutes in 14 previous playoff games this postseason, all in mop-up duty. The only reason he played that much is that the Jazz blew out Portland and San Antonio by such wide margins in several games. In six playoff games, Foster never left the bench.That's why it was something of a shock when Foster reported to the scorers' table two minutes into the second quarter Sunday. Out-of-town media types scrambled for their media guides to see who the new guy was; Foster said the call from Jerry Sloan was just as big a surprise to him.

"I had no idea," said the 6-11 center. "It was a big shock."

Foster said the coaches never gave him a hint he might be playing, nor have they given any indication that he might play in Game 5, Tuesday at Key Arena.

"Maybe in the shootaround (Tuesday) I might find out something," he said. "But that's a big maybe."

Foster's appearance shouldn't have come as a total surprise, however. It might be more surprising that he didn't play earlier. Starting center Felton Spencer continues to have foul problems, and Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has been unsatisfied with the way rookie center Greg Ostertag reacts to the Sonics' defense. Ostertag frequently looks like he doesn't know where he's supposed to be.

Given those factors, Sloan probably tried Foster in an effort to find a big guy who understands floor spacing. Foster did a nicejob on offense, hitting four of six shots and totaling 10 points, but he admits that he struggled on the other end.

"Defensively, I was lacking a little bit," he said. "I was a little slow getting involved in some things. There's a lot of little things this team throws at you, so you have to be thinking all the time."

Foster took some heat from certain media elements for Sam Perkins' 20-point effort against the Jazz, but Perkins wasn't entirely Foster's fault. The Sonics' forward/center scored a couple buckets when Foster had to drop off to help a teammate who'd lost his man, and besides, Perkins could have had just as big a game against certain other Jazz big guys. And at least Foster scored some points.

Whether he plays again or not, Foster said he enjoyed his return to action.

"I hadn't played basketball in about a month and a half, as far as competing in a game," he said. "It was fun. I was happy again. It's frustrating as (heck) sitting there just watching, knowing you can be contributing."

Like other Jazz folks, Foster said the Jazz's biggest challenge now is not thinking about the fact they'd have to win three in a row to defeat the Sonics.

"We just want to lay it all out on the floor for one game," he said.

"You just have to block it out of your mind and be ready to play," Sloan said. "You're going to be eliminated if you lose this game."

Jazz forward Karl Malone said he expects his teammates to give a good effort in Seattle.

"I'd be totally embarrassed (if they didn't)," he said. "We're down to a one-game season now. We've always shown a lot of pride and a lot of character. We're going to play our butts off."

Asked if the Jazz can realistically expect to beat Seattle three games in a row, Foster said, "Realistically? I guess realistically the answer would be no, but it's not impossible either. Remember, we gave two games away."

What Foster hopes to see Tuesday is the satisfied look of success in the Sonics' eyes.

"You could see it in the second game up there, after they blew us out (in Game 1)," he said. "They were real cocky and overconfident."