Work in Sports
SEATTLE (Ticker) -- Facing playoff elimination, Gary Payton's motor never stopped running. Neither did his mouth.
Payton had 35 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists and was part of the best defensive second quarter in NBA playoff history as the Seattle SuperSonics evened their Western Conference first-round series with an emphatic 104-93 victory over the Utah Jazz.
The often volatile SuperSonics kept their cool, even while they were blowing most of a 17-point third-quarter lead. Led by Payton, Seattle regrouped down the stretch and turned away Utah, which hosts the decisive fifth game on Friday.
"It's gonna be a nasty one," Payton said.
"I don't think we need any motivation for this game on Friday," Jazz forward Karl Malone said. "I don't think we need any speeches. I don't think we need to read about it or talk about it.
While collecting his first playoff triple-double, Payton won the game and his running argument with Malone. The NBA's premier trash-talker, Payton unnerved the normally level-headed Jazz, who had seven technical fouls and two ejections.
"That's why I don't listen to people in the media, because you don't know what's going to happen," Payton said. "Everybody says this and that and I want to see what everyone is going to write about us now. I think this team did a great job of coming back and doing a great job of doing what we were supposed to do."
Payton scored 15 points in the final seven minutes after the Jazz had cut the deficit to 82-80. His drive and 3-pointer capped a 12-2 burst that widened the lead to 97-83 with 3:05 to go, ending the real game and beginning the mind games.
While shooting free throws, the All-Star guard called Malone a name usually associated with female dogs. Brent Barry was called for a flagrant foul on Malone, who wanted a piece of the Seattle guard but was advised by long-time teammate John Stockton to "just play."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was ejected by referee Mark Wunderlich five seconds later and Payton and Malone got into it again in the final minute and both were hit with technicals.
"He wanted to get mad about a lot of things but I'm not gonna back down against anybody," Payton said.
That was the second for Malone, who had early foul trouble and was working the officials all game. As he exited, Payton gave him a verbal parting shot and Malone turned back before being stopped by teammate Olden Polynice.
Payton delivered one more non-verbal message, throwing in a 3-pointer at the buzzer. He made 11-of-23 shots and added six steals.
Rashard Lewis scored 20 points and Vin Baker added 18 for the Sonics, who limited the Jazz to just seven points in the second quarter, when they took the lead for good. The previous lowest second period was nine by San Antonio against Utah on April 30, 1994.
"(Baker) came out and played the way he is supposed to play," Payton said. "He stopped thinking about things. He was making his jump shot, playing hard, going to the basket hard and not complaining about anything."
Bryon Russell scored 26 points and Malone added 23 and 14 boards for the Jazz, who were forced to a fifth game in the opening round for the third straight year and seventh time since 1992.
They are 4-2 with three straight wins in such games, including last year's home overtime triumph against Sacramento.
"I didn't have the kind of game I would have liked to have had," Malone said. "I didn't like the way it ended, but you bounce back and that what's matters to me right now."
The Jazz came out flying, making eight of their first 10 shots.
Jeff Hornacek had a four-point play and Russell added two foul shots as Utah bolted to a 20-12 lead midway through the first period.
But Malone went to the bench with his second foul with 4:37 to go and Utah fell apart. The Sonics closed to 29-26 after one quarter and clamped down on the Jazz, who shot just 14 percent (3-of-21) in the period.
Payton scored six points and Baker four in a 14-0 surge that began late in the first quarter and gave Seattle a 36-29 lead.
Utah did not score in the second period until a dunk by rookie Scott Padgett with 6:59 left.
"It was tremendous," Baker said. "We did exactly what we did in Game Three. We wanted to come out and cut off their pick-and-roll. Our rotations were great. at the same time, we got our fast break opportunities. I think the third quarter was big, they came back within two."
"It's pretty hard to hold a team to seven points and Scott Padgett had five of them," Sonics coach Paul Westphal said. "It was a combination of our good defense and them missing some shots. It was certainly the key part of the game, no doubt about it."
Lewis and Shammond Williams framed a 12-2 closing burst with 3-pointers, giving Seattle a 50-36 halftime lead. A driving layup by Barry gave the Sonics their biggest advantage at 63-46 with 7:24 left in the third quarter before the Jazz came back.
Even as they rallied, the Jazz appeared rattled. After cutting the deficit to 69-59, center Greg Ostertag slapped the ball out of referee Ron Garretson's hands and received a technical foul.
Sloan continued the argument and drew his first.
Russell scored 12 points and Malone 11 in the third quarter as Utah closed to 78-71 entering the final period. A 3-pointer by Hornacek reduced the margin to two before Payton took over. He responded with two free throws and, after Lewis and Ostertag traded foul shots, threw in a 3-pointer for an 88-81 lead with 5:25 remaining.
"We held our composure and then we started going to the basket and getting fouls, making free throws and we executed our plays really well at the end," Payton said.
Lewis scored inside and added 1-of-2 free throws, Malone had a dunk to make it 91-83 with four minutes to play but 19 seconds later, the Jazz lost their cool again. An out-of-bounds call drew the ire of Hornacek and Malone, who both were whistled for technicals.
Brent Barry made 1-of-2 foul shots before Payton's drive and 3-pointer ended the basketball battle and began the war of words.
"I expected it to be a little heated down the stretch and that's what happened," Baker said. "We kept our composure and did the things we needed to do offensively and defensively to win the game."
Barry scored 16 points for the Sonics, who shot 44 percent (39-of-88) and committed just 12 turnovers while forcing 19. Baker pulled down nine rebounds.
Hornacek scored 16 points and Stockton added 13 and 12 assists for the Jazz, who shot 42 percent (32-of-77).