Malone, Jazz complete sweep despite Shaq's heroics
Posted: Monday July 20, 1998 05:18 PM
INGLEWOOD, California (CNN/SI) -- The Utah Jazz returned to the
NBA Finals with a 96-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers as Karl Malone had
32 points and 14 rebounds to complete the first four-game sweep in team
history -- with Shaquille
O'Neal again at the end of the broom.
The top-seeded Jazz never trailed after the opening 10 minutes and closed
out the Western Conference finals in quick fashion, stunning the talented
Lakers with teamwork and experience. Utah had lost at least one game in 14
previous best-of-seven series.
"I told the guys to just come out and play this game and play it with the
kind of enthusiasm I thought we played with," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
"We played with a great deal of intelligence, for the most part. I said
when the series started that the team that played with the most
intelligence would be in a position to win."
"There were times when we just played like a young team in this series,
and every time we did, they capitalized," Lakers guard Nick Van Exel
Malone scored 10 points in the last 7 1/2 minutes, answering every belated
surge by the Lakers. As it did through most of the series, Los Angeles
played without much heart or emotion until it had to, and by then, it was
"They were the best team playing before we got to the conference finals,"
Malone said. "I don't think surprising is the right word. We had a game
plan coming in here.
"We earned everything that we got. That is what it has been like all year
long. You put your mind together as a team and you can do a lot of great
things. It is neat to get back there again."
O'Neal had another outstanding game with 38 points, including 11 straight
Lakers points down the stretch. He shot 14-of-24 from the field and
10-of-18 from the line. But he missed a pair of free throws with 27 seconds
to play that could have cut the deficit to one point and was swept out of
the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
"They were a lot hungrier than we were and we just played very
inconsistent," O'Neal said. "Guys just have to step up. They have to find
out what's important to them. If they don't want to play, then they need to
ask for a trade. If they don't want to play, then get off my team."
As a member of the Orlando Magic, O'Neal
absorbed a first-round sweep in 1994, an NBA Finals sweep in 1995 and a
conference finals sweep in 1996. He was bounced in five games by Utah in
the conference semifinals last year, his first with the Lakers.
Los Angeles had not been swept in any series since the 1989 NBA Finals,
when they were beaten by Detroit. The Lakers' sweep of Phoenix that same
year marked the last time the West finals ended in four games.
Hornacek scored 15 points and Greg Ostertag
added 11 for the Jazz, who await the winner of the Eastern Conference
finals between the two-time defending champion Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers. Utah,
which has never won an NBA title, owns home-court advantage and the series
starts at the Delta Center no earlier than May 31.
"You know we're not going to say, `Yes, we want to play this team,'"
Hornacek said. "Chicago and Indiana are different teams. Chicago is similar
to us, they have a couple of superstars and everyone else plays a role.
Indiana has a guy at every position, so if one guy is off another guy can
pick him up."
"It meant a lot to sweep the Lakers," Ostertag said. "We beat a very good
team with a lot of good athletes that have the ability to score. Not unlike
A three-pointer by Chris Morris
opened the fourth quarter and gave the Jazz their largest lead at 70-57.
Los Angeles cut the deficit to six points on four occasions, but Utah
answered each time, as John Stockton
hit a runner in the lane and Malone made two free throws, a jumper and two
more foul shots on consecutive possessions.
A jumper by Eddie
Jones, who scored 19 points, made it 82-76 and O'Neal began his run of
points with a free throw with 3:30 to play. Hornacek made a layup and
O'Neal sank three free throws before Malone buried a baseline jumper for an
86-80 lead with 1:49 to go.
O'Neal converted a three-point play, but Stockton made four free throws
around one by O'Neal to extend the margin to 90-84 with 1:09 remaining.
O'Neal converted another three-point play and Stockton uncharacteristically
dribbled the ball off his ankle and out of bounds with 44 seconds to go.
O'Neal was fouled as he made a lane jumper with 27 seconds left. But the
referees ruled that the foul came before the shot, and O'Neal missed both
free throws. Malone rebounded and was fouled, sinking both free throws.
A three-point play by Kobe Bryant made
it 92-90 with 22 seconds left. But the Lakers were unable to foul quickly
and finally got to Stockton with 10 seconds to go. Stockton made both shots
and Van Exel hit an uncontested layup before Greg Foster
sealed it with a dunk with 2.5 seconds to play.
"We kept fighting and fighting but we just couldn't get over that hill,"
Van Exel said. "They just held on to the lead that they had."
Stockton scored eight points -- all in the fourth quarter -- and added
eight assists. Reserve point guard Howard Eisley
had nine points and five assists for the Jazz, who shot 48 percent
(31-of-65) and made 30-of-33 free throws.
Van Exel scored 11 points for the Lakers, who shot 43 percent (32-of-74)
and made 22-of-33 from the line. Los Angeles held a 37-34 rebounding
advantage and committed just eight turnovers.
"How many times do we have to play them before we think of something
different?" Van Exel said. "The game plans were fine. They just played well
all four games."
In the first 9 1/2 minutes, O'Neal and Malone traded flagrant fouls,
knocking each other to the floor. Malone's free throws after O'Neal's
flagrant foul pulled Utah into an 18-18 tie and Bryon Russell's
pair 64 seconds later gave the Jazz the lead for good.
Ostertag, who was slapped to the floor by O'Neal as the teams crossed
paths at a practice in October, came on midway in the period and
contributed four points and three blocks.
The Jazz took control with an 8-0 burst at the outset of the second period
as Eisley, the hero of Game One, followed Shandon
Anderson's layup with a pair of three-pointers for a 28-18 lead with
"We've got a lot of confidence in our offense," Eisley said. "We are going
to do whatever it takes to get people open. We are going to move the ball
to get good shots."
Another three-pointer by Eisley and Malone's jumper opened a 35-24 lead
with 5:34 to go. The Lakers trailed 47-38 at the half, as O'Neal shot
6-of-12 and his teammates shot 8-of-29.
A three-pointer by Rick Fox pulled Los
Angeles within 51-45 with 8:19 left in the third quarter. But, Russell made
two foul shots, Hornacek hit a technical foul shot called against Lakers
coach Del Harris, Russell made a driving layup and Ostertag hit 1-of-2 from
the line for a 57-45 bulge with 5:41 remaining.
Hornacek and Lakers forward Elden Campbell
were whistled for double technicals with 1:05 left in the period.