PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference first round; Kings lead 2-1.
They’re looking to advance.
“I believe everybody on this team came in with the idea that we can win this series,” said Utah center Greg Ostertag. “But I think everybody also had the idea that it was going to be a hard-fought series regardless of who wins.”
Coming off a pivotal win in Game 3, the Jazz look to even up the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals when they host the Kings at the Delta Center.
After consecutive losses in Sacramento, including a 108-95 setback in Game 2 last Monday, the Jazz had five days to prepare for their first home game in the series.
They made the most of it.
While coach Jerry Sloan was sent to the locker room in the third quarter after picking up his second technical, the Jazz played an aggressive brand of basketball for the full 48 minutes, holding off the Kings 107-104.
“We have to allow ourselves to play like that. Within the rules, but play physical,” said Jazz power forward Karl Malone, who finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“That’s what playoff basketball is all about. No excuses.”
Ostertag proved to be Utah’s most effective player, with playoff career bests of 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
“Greg played tremendous, he was alive, he went after the ball,” said Sloan. “It’s great for him. He deserves the credit he is getting because he is playing so hard. I don’t think I’ve seen him play this hard in his career.”
Game 3 also marked the return of Kings power forward Chris Webber, who sat out the bulk of Game 2 after injuring his back in the second quarter. Webber finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds Saturday, but was unable to carry the Kings down the stretch after fouling out with just under two minutes to play.
“They got us on our heels. I thought they were the aggressors,” Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. “I kept hearing how physical they were going to be, but they were very aggressive offensively.”
Kings guard Bobby Jackson had a different view.
“The refs need to see both sides of the game. They can play physical, but we can’t play physical,” said Jackson, referring to the 34 to 21 discrepancy in foul calls, which favored the Jazz.
“It’s ridiculous. I’d rather have high school refs than NBA refs.”
Sacramento won both games at the Delta Center last year to knock Utah out in the opening round. The Kings will have to win Game 4 to have a chance to avert a potential trip back to Salt Lake City for Game 6 on Friday.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Sacramento.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Kings - 59-23, 2nd seed. Jazz - 47-35, 7th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Stojakovic, 22.5 ppg; Divac, 8.5 rpg; Bobby Jackson, 6.0 apg. Jazz - Malone, 20.0 ppg and 5.5 apg; Ostertag, 7.5 rpg.
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.