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SuperSonics Finally Put Away Jazz

From Associated Press

The Seattle SuperSonics, led by their two young All-Stars, are going to the NBA Finals instead of the Utah Jazz and their two future Hall of Famers.

The SuperSonics, behind Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, won Game 7 of the Western Conference finals 90-86 Sunday, advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1979 and erasing a legacy of playoff failure.

“I’ve never doubted this basketball team,” Seattle Coach George Karl said.

Seattle will meet the Chicago Bulls in the finals beginning Wednesday night, while Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Jazz finished one step from the championship round for the third time in five years.

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Utah was seeking to become the sixth team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit, but the Jazz ended up getting beat at their own game. The SuperSonics did not score a single fastbreak point, but they shot 54% in the halfcourt offense and got four clutch free throws from Kemp in the final 77 seconds.

Malone, plagued by free throw shooting problems throughout the postseason, missed a pair with 8.2 seconds left that could have pulled Utah within one. Hersey Hawkins was fouled on the rebound, made one throw and the outcome was sealed.

“We won like men, we lose like men,” Malone said. “We played hard but didn’t get it done.”

Kemp had 26 points and 14 rebounds and Payton scored 22. The efforts of those two helped nullify the 22 points scored by both Stockton and Malone.

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