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Sonics extend small West lead over Jazz

3/26/2002

SEATTLE (AP) -- Rashard Lewis believed it was more than two years
since the Seattle SuperSonics gave their best effort against the
Utah Jazz.

He was ready to change that.

Lewis scored 11 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter as the
Sonics defeated the Jazz 106-92 Monday night to hold onto their
playoff position in the West.

It was Seattle's first win over the Jazz since a 104-96 victory
on Feb. 1, 2000. The Jazz had beaten the Sonics by an average of 18
points in the previous three meetings this year.

Lewis also grabbed seven rebounds in the final quarter.

"I was more aggressive in the second half," Lewis said. "They
started to slow the game down and I thought I'd pick up the tempo
more."

Gary Payton added 24 points and seven assists, and Brent Barry
had 18 points and six assists for the Sonics, who entered with a
half-game lead over the Jazz for seventh place in the Western
Conference.

"It looked like a playoff game to them and it looked like an
exhibition game to us," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.

"We've got eight or nine guys in there that are free agents and
I don't know if we can even think about playing basketball. We're
worried about what's going to happen next year and this year ain't
over."

Karl Malone had 24 points, six steals and five rebounds for
Utah, which is battling to stay ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers
for the conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

Malone, responding to Sloan's criticism of the free agents,
said: "If that's the case, that's disheartening. ... These are my
teammates and there are certain lines I don't cross."

The Jazz, who had won four of five, got 17 points and nine
assists from John Stockton a night before his 40th birthday. Bryon
Russell added 16 for Utah and substitute Andrei Kirilenko had 10
points and seven rebounds.

Sonics coach Nate McMillan wanted his team to force Utah to
shoot from outside, and the plan worked for much of the game. The
Jazz shot 40.3 percent, including 4-for-13 from 3-point range.

"We focused on their role players," McMillan said. "We felt
like Malone and Stockton were going to get their numbers."

Utah had won eight straight games against Seattle. The Jazz beat
the Sonics with big second-half runs in all three wins this season.

Utah shot 36.4 percent in the first half and had no players in
double figures, but outscored Seattle 16-7 to open the second half.
Stockton scored five and Malone six in the spurt and the Jazz
pulled to 76-69 going into the fourth quarter.

Jazz forward Donyell Marshall left the game with 6:46 remaining
in the first quarter after aggravating a left calf injury he
sustained Friday against Washington.

The Sonics, who lead the league in field-goal percentage, made
51.3 percent of their shots in the first half and shot 52.6 percent
overall. They had shot just 35 percent in a loss Saturday at
Denver.

Payton went down hard with 7:33 left in the second quarter. He
was racing for the ball against 7-foot-2 Utah center Greg Ostertag.
Payton got the ball, scored, was fouled by Ostertag and crashed
into a cameraman just under the Sonics' basket. He was slow to get
up, but walked off the court and didn't leave the game, converting
the free throw.

Seattle ended the first half with a 14-0 run for a 52-37 lead.

Game notes
Payton reached the 2,000 career steals milestone. He's the
ninth to do it. ... Stockton celebrates his 40th birthday Tuesday.
"I haven't paid attention to his birthday," Sloan said. "He's 20
years younger than I am." McMillan called Stockton "amazing. He
looks the same. He doesn't look any older since I first played
against him. He's aggressive and I haven't seen any changes in his
game." ... Sonics forward Art Long missed the game because of a
pulled right hamstring that he hurt Friday against Houston. He also
missed Saturday's game. Long had an MRI test Monday and was
undergoing treatment before the game. He could be back for
Wednesday's game against Memphis. ... McMillan said guard Earl
Watson would practice with the team Tuesday. Watson, who has a
separated left shoulder, could be back on the court this week. He
went on the injured list March 8.