Malone is on song as Jazz draw level

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The Independent Online
Karl Malone scored 32 points and Jeff Hornacek added 23 as the Utah Jazz beat the Seattle SuperSonics 118-83 on Thursday to level the Western Conference final at three games each.

Utah, previously 3-1 down in the best-of-seven series to see who faces the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals, have twice avoided elimination - first with an overtime win in Seattle, on Tuesday, and now with a rout at home.

The decisive game will be played tomorrow at Seattle with Utah hoping to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in their history, while the the Sonics look to return to the championship round for the first time since 1979.

"It was a great victory. We still got one more game to play but it was a great win, a great effort," said Malone, who also had 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. "I think the guys played tremendous basketball.

"We didn't look at it as if we had to win three in a row after we fell behind 3-1," Malone said. "We just knew we had to win two to force a game seven and now we've done that."

Utah's other future Hall of Famer, John Stockton, added 14 points and 12 assists, playing his best game of the series for the Jazz.

Shawn Kemp led Seattle with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Detlef Schrempf added 16 points and Sam Perkins chipped in 14 for the Sonics.

Utah shot 60 per cent from the field, converting 44 of 73 shots, and forcing 23 turnovers.

The Jazz dominated from the opening tip, scoring the first 12 points of the game and taking a 35-22 lead after the first quarter. Utah increased their lead to as many as 22 points in the second quarter before the Sonics went on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to 58-47.

But Seattle pulled no closer than 10 points in the second half when a three-pointer by Gary Payton made it 61-51 early in the third quarter.

The Jazz then went on a 17-9 run to take a 78-60 lead with Hornacek scoring eight points.

Utah scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to open a 93- 67 lead with 10min 25sec remaining and the Jazz continued to pull away.

The 35-point margin matched the worst play-off defeat for the Sonics, who suffered a 117-82 loss to Washington in game six of the 1978 NBA Finals.

The Sonics coach, George Carl, was confident his club would bounce back. "I like my basketball team. It will be there on Sunday," he said.