Karl Malone scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Jazz snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Pacific Division-leading Kings, 102-92.
John Stockton added 20 points and nine assists for Utah, which played the final 38 1/2 minutes without coach Sloan, who was ejected for shoving referee Courtney Kirkland after Kings guard Doug Christie was not whistled for stepping out of bounds in front of the Jazz bench.
Utah played the remainder of the game under assistant Phil Johnson, who coached the Kings on two separate occasions in the 1970s and 1980s.
“(Sloan) questioned a call and (Kirkland) threw him out of the game,” Johnson said. “I’m never surprised with anything that happens in the game; the game is very emotional and things happen. When he leaves, we have to carry on.”
Sacramento dominated the latter stages of the first quarter and took a 32-23 advantage into the second period. But Webber, who was selected as a reserve to the Western Conference All-Star squad, turned his left ankle landing on Scott Padgett after a shot attempt with 10:45 left in the second quarter. He left the game 12 seconds later and the Kings quickly lost their offensive flow.
“He was coming in, trying to back me down,” Padgett said of Webber. “I kind of tried to take the charge, he went up when I went down and he fell. His foot landed right on my foot. I’m sure that is when he hurt himself. I kind of heard him yell. I figured he’d be going out of the game.”
Utah took the lead for good, 36-35, on a jumper by Malone with 4:54 left in the half and extended its advantage to 53-40 at the break. The Jazz outscored the Kings in the second quarter, 30-8.
“I really think what happened is the last four or five minutes we broke down defensively and gave them some easy opportunities,” Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. “It went from a four-point game - even though we weren’t scoring, it was still close until the end - and then suddenly a 13-point game. That’s just the way you’re going to learn. You have to stay mentally tough and not break down defensively.”
“We didn’t play aggressive,” Kings forward Peja Stojakovic said. “And when Chris got hurt in the second, we just fell apart. “They are a very good team and very experienced. We tried to make a run in the third quarter but I guess we didn’t have enough energy. I hope Chris’ injury isn’t serious and he’s back soon.”
The Kings climbed within 76-71 entering the fourth quarter, but the Jazz opened the period with a 16-3 run in the first 5 1/2 minutes. Sacramento got no closer than seven points thereafter.
“We struggled in the second quarter,” Sacramento center Vlade Divac said. “We couldn’t score points. We couldn’t stop them. They beat us by 20 in the second quarter. That pretty much decided the game. In the third quarter we tired to come back and we came close. We were only down by five points, but we didn’t have anything left.”
Stojakovic scored 32 points and Mike Bibby added 18 for Sacramento, which shot just 40 percent (30-of-75) from the field and allowed Utah to connect on 54 percent (43-of-79). The Kings also were outrebounded by the Jazz, 43-30.
“Webb is a triple-double guy but we have shown that we can play without him as a team,” Christie said. “But ultimately, in the long run, guys are going to have to step up in Webb’s absence.”
Kings backup center Scot Pollard, who had played only five games this season due to a stress fracture in his lower back, broke the fourth metacarpal bone on his right hand in the third quarter. He will be out six to eight weeks.
Utah snapped a three-game losing streak and handed Sacramento a season high-tying third straight defeat. The Kings also lost three in a row from November 3-6.
“It’s tough to win here, and we were coming off of three tough losses (to San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State), games we should have won,” Padgett said. “It was a win we needed to have. We have Portland tomorrow, Lakers, Dallas, Golden State, who’s hot right now, some tough games, so it was key for us to get the win tonight.”
“(Getting ejected) was a great move on coach Sloan’s part,” Stockton said. “We quite waiting and tried to compete better. We have not been doing a great job of that. Somehow we turned that around a little bit tonight.”