Jeff Malone, whose drifting, off-balance jump shots perplexed the Seattle SuperSonics all night, made two baskets and two free throws in the final 1:04 as the Jazz held off Seattle, 103-97, Friday night for a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.
"Right now I'm playing as well as I have in my career. I'm feeling pretty good. I'm shooting the ball well," Malone said after scoring 33 points on 13-for-21 shooting as Utah improved to 42-4 at the Delta Center.
Karl Malone added 28 points and 12 rebounds for Utah, which travels to Seattle for Game 3 on Sunday. But he warned against overconfidence.
"It's important for us to be up two games, but it's not over with," he said. "Now we have to go up there and see what happens."
Seattle Coach George Karl was not ready to concede anything.
"We've played hard and I'm proud of our effort, but we haven't played great basketball yet," he said. "Hopefully we'll get back to our home court, and we'll get some life."
SuperSonic officials said 6-foot-10 forward Shawn Kemp, who left the game with 1:47 to play after being hit in the face by Utah center Mark Eaton during a collision, should return for Sunday's game. Kemp's right eyelid was swollen from a minor eye laceration.
Kemp, who had 20 points, collided with Eaton while driving to the basket and fell to the floor hard after being called for stepping out of bounds. He left the game and did not return, sitting on the bench with an ice pack over his right eye.
Eddie Johnson scored 26 points for Seattle, which rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to get within 91-90 on Derrick McKey's three-point play with 2:21 remaining.
But Karl Malone's two free throws with 2:02 to play and Blue Edwards' driving layup 26 seconds later gave the Jazz some breathing room. Jeff Malone then took over, finishing two points short of his personal playoff high.
Seattle held a one-point halftime lead, but Karl Malone keyed a 21-10 run to open the third quarter, scoring 10 points to give Utah a 72-62 lead. The Jazz led, 76-68, going into the fourth quarter.
Three drifting jumpers by Jeff Malone highlighted an 8-1 run that started the game, but the Sonics countered with a 3-pointer by McKey and a three-point play by Kemp to tie the score.
The teams were tied 21-21 when Johnson drove the lane to give Seattle a 23-21 lead going into the second quarter. It was just the beginning for Johnson.
The 6-foot-7 veteran forward scored 13 points in the second period, including the first three field goals of an 8-0 Sonics run. With Benoit Benjamin's jump shot at the 10:31 mark, Seattle built a 10-point advantage.
But the Jazz, cashing in long rebounds for fast breaks, scored 11 of the next 14 points. A dunk and free throw by Eaton pulled Utah within two points, and John Stockton's basket tied the game 42-42 less than four minutes before halftime. Seattle held on for a 52-51 halftime lead thanks to nine free throws over the final 3:40.