The second half was another matter as the Jazz turned a 15-point
halftime deficit into a 92-85 win Thursday night, extending
Seattle's losing streak to six straight.
"It was just an all around bad start. Sometimes that happens,''
said Matt Harpring, who scored 15 of his 26 points in the third as
the Jazz rallied for their biggest comeback of the season.
"We just came out in the third quarter with a lot of energy and
focused on the defensive end.''
The Sonics had not dropped six in a row since early in the
1990-91 season and appeared to be ready to end their losing streak
until collapsing in the third quarter.
Utah, which rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Denver 92-81
Wednesday night in Denver, has won 11 of 14 to improve to a
season-high eight games above .500 and opened a five-game homestand
on a good note after getting booed in the second quarter.
"Those guys were playing as hard as you see a team play in that
situation,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said of the comeback. "It was
refreshing after we played so poorly. The fans booed us and
Gary Payton had 27 points and eight assists and Desmond Mason,
Rashard Lewis and Brent Barry each scored 11 for the Sonics.
Seattle, which opened the season 4-0, dropped to five games below
.500 for the first time this season.
"We did a good job of containing those guys, disrupting them in
the first half, but we gave them an opportunity in the second
half,'' Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. "They started to get
more movement, they found their cutters underneath the basket for
some easy baskets.''
Seattle had a 14-0 run in the second quarter and led by as much
as 16, but couldn't hang on to a 50-35 halftime lead. Seattle
collapsed in the third quarter as Utah tightened its defense and
got to loose balls for easy putbacks.
The Jazz fell way behind the struggling Sonics early, then
opened the third quarter with a 20-2 run. Harpring scored 10 during
the initial run with a layup, a free throw after a 3-second
violation and a 3-pointer off a pass from John Stockton.
Harpring added a putback that cut Seattle's lead to 52-49. After
Ostertag hit one from down low, Harpring broke free for a dunk that
put the Jazz up 53-52 with 5:54 left in the third. The dunk, a
rarity for Harpring, got the crowd on its feat as the Jazz took
their first lead since they were up 8-7 in the first quarter.
Malone hit a 3-pointer to give the Jazz a 69-59 lead.
The Jazz outscored the Sonics 34-9 in the third, forcing seven
turnovers and pulling down five offensive rebounds. The Jazz were
13-for-21 in the third and when they missed a shot, somebody was
usually there for the putback. The Sonics, meanwhile, were 4-for-15
and never got closer than four in the fourth.
Utah, which went 3-1 against Seattle in 2001-02, improved to 1-1
against the Sonics this season.
"I was proud of the way we fought. It marked an improvement for
us,'' Barry said. "We just weren't hitting shots.''
The game featured three of the top-10 career assist leaders
in Stockton (No. 1), Utah's Mark Jackson (No. 3) and Payton (No.
8). Stockton and Payton each had eight assists Thursday and Jackson
finished with six. ... Sonics coach Nate McMillan is still one win
shy of 100 wins at 99-85. ... Kirilenko was selected Thursday to
play on the second-year team in the NBA Rookie Challenge game the
day before the All-Star game. Kirilenko played as a rookie last
year and had four points in 15 minutes. ... Payton went down on the
court for several minutes late in the fourth after taking an
accidental chop to the throat from Stockton, who had the ball and
was trying to get around Payton when the side of his left hand hit
Payton. Payton came right back in and he and Stockton shook hands
before play resumed.