SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- In most of their 19 home playoff games
over the past five years, the Sacramento Kings have seemed just as
unnerved by their loud crowd as their opponents did.
But the Kings' trepidation went away in Game 2 of their
first-round series with Utah on Monday night -- and that might be
even more discouraging to the Jazz than the Kings' 108-95 victory.
Peja Stojakovic, a frequent victim of the postseason jitters,
scored 29 points as the Kings roared to a 25-point lead early in
the fourth quarter. A late Utah rally narrowed the final gap, but
the Kings never gave their deafening fans much reason to doubt.
For the first time since they began their string of five
straight playoff appearances in 1999, Sacramento took a 2-0 lead in
a best-of-seven series.
"We finally did it. We finally won the games we were supposed
to,'' said forward Scot Pollard, who had eight points and six
rebounds. "We're stepping on them right now. We want to squish
them. We want to step on them and squish them so they get no
The Kings played at their favorite tempo: all-out aggression.
They did it mostly without leading scorer and rebounder Chris
Webber, who went to the locker room early in the fourth quarter
with a strained lower back.
He will undergo a precautionary MRI exam Tuesday and his status
for Saturday's Game 3 in Salt Lake City was uncertain.
"They made it look like a playoff game,'' Utah coach Jerry
Sloan said. "We made it look like the end of a seven-game road
trip. We looked like a tired team playing against a team that wants
to go further into the playoffs.''
Though Sacramento has won 15 of the teams' last 17 meetings,
including three of four in their first-round series last spring,
Utah has kept almost every game close by forcing the run-and-gun
Kings to play at the Jazz's deliberate pace.
Not in Game 2. The Kings were the aggressors all night,
eventually running the Jazz off the court with a slick fastbreak
and proficient shooting.
"We really wanted to push the start of the game,'' Kings coach
Rick Adelman said. "We wanted to be the aggressors. We played with
more authority from the start. We were extremely aggressive, and
we've got to keep playing that way.''
Karl Malone scored 15 points for the Jazz, who have four days
off before Game 3 on Saturday at the Delta Center, where Sacramento
has won eight straight. Game 4 is Monday.
Over the first three quarters, Sacramento barely even had lulls
in its offensive flow against Utah's defense. The Pacific Division
champions made 10 of their first 12 shots as Arco Arena reached
Mike Bibby had 10 points for the Kings, who made a 22-6 run in
the second quarter and took a 19-point lead despite losing Webber.
The Jazz couldn't get back on their game until the fourth.
"We aren't going to beat this team playing soft,'' Utah guard
Mark Jackson said. "We let them do what they wanted to do. We need
to play with force.''
Webber had eight points when he came down awkwardly while
battling Greg Ostertag for a rebound in the opening minute of the
second quarter. Webber fouled Ostertag and immediately limped to
the locker room. Adelman said the injury "isn't very serious,''
but Webber will have a precautionary MRI exam Tuesday.
Andrei Kirilenko had another strong game for the Jazz, scoring
11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. Matt Harpring had 14
points, while John Stockton was held to eight points and two
assists in 21 minutes.
Late in the third quarter, Sloan removed Malone and Ostertag for
good. The Kings scored 10 straight points early in the fourth
quarter, taking a 92-67 lead on Jim Jackson's long jumper.
Stojakovic, a two-time All-Star, missed most of the final two
rounds of last season's playoffs with a sprained ankle. He's
particularly anxious to add postseason success to his credentials
this season, and he shredded Utah's defense for drives and
3-pointers, shooting 10-for-16.
"In the first game, we were nervous,'' Stojakovic said.
"Tonight, we really moved the ball and found open guys. When
you're playing against such an experienced team, you get worried
about your defense on Stockton and Malone. Tonight, we played
The Jazz played without reserve guard DeShawn Stevenson, who was
sent home after getting into an argument with Sloan at Sunday's
Stevenson, who has griped about playing time this season, played
just one minute in Game 1. He might be finished with the Jazz, who
drafted him out of high school three years ago.
Nate "Tiny'' Archibald, the former Kansas City Kings
superstar whose number is retired at Arco Arena, attended the game.
... The Kings have won six straight regular-season games in Salt
Lake City, and they won there twice in the first round of the
playoffs last season. ... The Jazz have lost the opening game of a
best-of-seven series nine times. The previous eight times it
happened, they lost the series. ... For the second straight game,
the Jazz players didn't visit the postgame interview room, as
required by the NBA.
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