PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference first round; Kings lead 1-0.
After pulling out a narrow 89-86 win over the Jazz in Game 1 of their first-round series last season, Kings center Vlade Divac promptly declared that Utah was “done.”
The Jazz responded with a 93-86 upset win in Game 2, before ultimately conceding the series in four games.
This season, the Kings held off the Jazz for a narrow 96-90 win in the first game, but Divac was a little more humble in his post-game comments.
“I am looking forward to the game on Monday,” he said. “We tried to do so much. Some things we normally do well, like passing the ball, was not there tonight. We had a lot of turnovers which allowed them to score a lot of points.
“I’m just happy to get the first win.”
Despite the close call, Sacramento looked as mature on the court as Divac sounded off of it.
With the Jazz shutting down their up-tempo game, the Kings, who have won 13 of their last 15 over Utah, settled into a deliberate game more typically associated with their opponents.
“We’re trying to be more precise with what we do,” Sacramento forward Chris Webber said. “It’s not for us to go out and score 120 points against these guys. It’s to go out and control the tempo, and win these games.”
Webber had 27 points and 11 rebounds, Peja Stojakovic scored 16 points and Jim Jackson added 15 points for the Kings, who led for the final 30 minutes of the game despite trailing by as many as nine in the first quarter.
“They get us ready, just like last year,” said Mike Bibby, who scored 10 points. “They beat us up last year, and I think it got us ready for what we had to do down the road.
“I think they’ll do that to us again.”
“We just do not have the toughness at times … to do the things that you’d expect to teach grade-school players,” a frustrated coach Jerry Sloan said.
“You can’t do a lot of the sloppy, careless things that we did when you’re playing a team that good that’s on their home floor.”
John Stockton, appearing in his NBA-record 19th straight playoffs, added 13 points and five rebounds, while Matt Harpring scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half for Utah, which pulled to within two points of Sacramento with 3:13 left in the game.
“This is the first game,” said Sacramento coach Rick Adelman. “Just what I thought it was going to be. A tough, physical hard-nosed game. We kept opening it up in the second half. We just couldn’t ever get away from them. They kept coming at us, and Mike made some plays down the stretch there, found people for open shots. Peja hit two huge threes.
“It was a good win, it’s good to get the first win.”
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Jazz - 7th seed. Kings - 2nd seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Jazz - Malone, 25 ppg and 8 apg; Ostertag, 11 rpg. Kings - Webber, 27 ppg, 11 rpg; Bobby Jackson, 6 apg.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Kings, 3-1. Sacramento won the two matchups at Utah by a combined five points, including a 108-105 overtime victory on March 7. Webber averaged 25.5 points and 14 rebounds in those two wins, and played sparingly in both meetings at Arco Arena. Malone averaged 18.5 points in the series.