Sit still, Chicago. You've got five more days of waiting before the Bulls can get back to business.
The NBA Finals won't start until Wednesday because the Utah Jazz won't let the Seattle SuperSonics knock them out of the playoffs.The Jazz took advantage of a festive, frenzied and ear-splitting atmosphere at the Delta Center on Thursday night and forced a Game 7 on Sunday in the Western Conference finals with a 118-83 victory over the Sonics.
It was blowout No. 7 in the playoffs for a team that seems to have the ins and outs of a rout figured out. Utah has had eight home victories in the playoffs by an average margin of victory of 23.5 points - enough to make even George Karl shake his head in disbelief.
It just wouldn't be the NBA playoffs if the Seattle SuperSonics didn't have the chance to do something really embarrassing, now would it?
Perhaps it's not quite on the scale of being upset in the first round - as they were the previous two years - but the Sonics now face the possibility of being only the sixth team to blow a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series after getting hammered 118-83 by the Utah Jazz on Thursday night at the Delta Center.
By Ric Bucher
San Jose Mercury News
Once they stole a nickname.
Now the Utah Jazz has stolen some hearts.
The hearts of the Seattle SuperSonics are falling to their stomachs as they wearily head back home Sunday for the deciding seventh game of the NBA's Western Conference Finals.
That's because the team that was born amid the jazz of Bourbon Street stayed alive Thursday in the shadows of the Mormon Tabernacle with a 118-83 victory over the SuperSonics. Karl Malone led the Jazz with 32 points and 10 rebounds as Utah's second straight win tied the best-of-seven series at three games each.
"We were up 3-1 and let two slip," said Seattle guard Gary Payton. "Now we have to go home and take care of business. We'll win."
Can the Osmonds really triumph over grunge?
Maybe the Sonics' real mistake in coughing up Game 5 was allowing John Stockton time to heal his aches and pains - things he never once complained about.
Maybe the Sonics' second-biggest mistake was giving Stockton's buddy, Karl Malone, a chance to exert his powerful and mighty will.
Thursday night, Stockton had an answer for all the critics who have hurled insults at him these late May days.
He had an answer for all the talk about him being too old and too hurt.
He had an answer for all the grousing about his too many turnovers, about the points he hasn't scored in the Western Conference finals.
Thursday night, sensing the Jazz should go for the kill, Stockton took charge. He pushed it. Pushed it hard. Pushed it fast. Pushed it so bad that the Sonics were down 12-0 in the opening minutes of Game 6 before they had broken a sweat.
Then the Sonics sweated. They were prisoners for 48 long minutes inside the screaming cauldron of the Delta Center - the house that Stockton and Malone built, even if NBC thinks Chicago is the center of the universe and won't stop by for any of the 41 regular-season shows these future Hall of Famers put on.
Pray to the basketball gods. Grab the lucky charms and put them in your sweaty palms. Get out the smelling salts for the SuperSonics, who need a swift kick or a quick whiff of something. Then make a voodoo doll that looks like Karl Malone and start poking him with pins.
Thursday night at the Delta Center, the Utah Jazz stuck it to the SuperSonics 118-83 to even the Western Conference finals 3-3, forcing a Game 7 at Key Arena Sunday afternoon.
An eyelash from closing out the series in Game 5 last Tuesday night and advancing to the NBA Finals, the Sonics are now 48 minutes away from vindication or vacation.
The rims shrunk again on the Seattle SuperSonics.
Their loved ones were calling for Bulls tickets only two days ago, but now there is an option other than Michael Jordan: a summer vacation.
On a night Gary Payton and John Stockton traded places, the Utah Jazz had a scrimmage at Seattle Coach George Karl's expense. Stockton finally got a leg massage that worked, had 14 points, 12 assists and only 1 turnover and this Western Conference final will have a rubber game.
N.Y. Times News Service
With 20,000 fans at the Delta Center chanting his name in derision, Gary Payton drove hard into the key, and into a waiting windmill of arms from a Jazz double-team.
The ball squirted loose, forcing a hurried desperation miss by Nate McMillan as time ran out in the third quarter and Utah leading by 19.
It was Payton's game in microcosm.
So dominant in his previous matchups with John Stockton in the Western Conference finals, Payton had his worst game of the series Thursday night in Seattle's 118-83 loss to the Jazz.
"We got blown out, period," Payton snapped. "Now we've got one more game to see what we're going to do."