Sunday, April 21
Divac gives Jazz credit, but not too much
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A day after the Sacramento Kings barely won their first-ever playoff game as the Western Conference's top seed, Vlade Divac stood by his bold postgame pronouncement: The Utah Jazz are done.
Well, sort of.
"After watching the film, they played a good game," Divac said Sunday at the Kings' training complex. "If they play like that, they have a chance ... but I believe we should beat them in a series. We're No. 1 and they're No. 8 because that's what happened (in the regular season). We're a better team."
The Kings didn't look much better than Utah during a bruising, frustrating 89-86 victory in Game 1.
Sacramento, forced to play at its opponents' favored tempo, got pushed around by the physical Jazz, and the Kings' vaunted bench was soundly outplayed by Utah's collection of spare parts.
Sacramento held its breath as the Jazz missed six shots in the final 2:15, including two misses by John Stockton and an ill-advised tip-in attempt by Scott Padgett that cost Utah a final chance to tie it.
Divac told reporters afterward that the Jazz were "done. I think it was their best shot tonight, and they didn't win."
The rest of the Kings didn't share Divac's opinion publicly.
Most of the Pacific Division champions don't want to say anything that could stoke the motivational fire in Salt Lake City, where the Jazz returned for two days of practice before Game 2 on Tuesday night.
"I think we got their best shot yesterday, one of their best games, but I don't think they're done," forward Scot Pollard said.
"We knew they were going to come out and play better than they did in the four regular season games we had against them," said Doug Christie, whose Kings swept the regular-season series with Utah. "Vlade, he can get presumptuous sometimes."
Though Utah won every significant battle except the one on the scoreboard in Game 1, the Jazz are long past the point of enjoying moral victories. Even strong rebounding and good ballhandling by turnover-prone Utah didn't put a smile on Karl Malone's face.
"We felt going into it, before the series started, that if we controlled our turnovers we'd have an opportunity," said Malone, who had 25 points. "We did that, but it doesn't really mean much if you lose."
Kings coach Rick Adelman admitted that Utah coach Jerry Sloan, his former teammate with the Chicago Bulls, won their chess match in Game 1. The Jazz dictated the flow of play and negated Sacramento's huge advantages in athleticism and ballhandling by simply pushing the Kings down.
"It was certainly a physical game," Adelman said. "I never saw so many guys get wrestled to the ground and no foul called. Yesterday was just weird. The game was so strange."
Divac thinks the Kings can play their typically aggressive tempo against the Jazz, as they did during the regular season. He points to rebounding and turnovers as Sacramento's problems.
Both of the Kings' biggest contributors in Game 1 avoided the media on Sunday. Chris Webber led Sacramento with 24 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, while point guard Mike Bibby had 20 points and six assists in the first playoff game of his four-year NBA career.
Webber and Bibby helped the Kings barely maintain a narrow lead in front of an Arco Arena crowd conditioned to expect blowouts. The Jazz didn't give them the satisfaction, and Sloan will spend the time between games trying to keep his team at the same level.
At practice Monday, the Jazz weren't willing to bask in the satisfaction of almost winning, nor did the players say much in response to Divac's comments.
"I think the game was good. We played our style of basketball, we played physical," Malone said.
"We had an opportunity to win down the stretch," he said. "But you don't get anything for losing. You gotta play the game."
Sloan was hoping his team would focus and follow up on its near-win during Tuesday's game.
"If the concentration isn't there it doesn't make any difference," Sloan said.