FORWARDS: Karl Malone put on another stellar show for the Hollywood crowd. Of course, the Tinsel Town fans probably enjoyed it as much as they would a best-of-Pauley-Shore movie marathon. Malone's highlight film included a clutch 14-for-15 performance from the free-throw line, 32 points, 14 rebounds and a two-point takedown of Shaq. Bryon Russell was off from the field, but he scored a team-high six points (of his eight) in the third quarter. He also got Shaq to pick up his fourth foul on a strong drive midway through the third. The Lakers' forwards - Robert Horry, Rick Fox and Corie Blount - combined for 18 rebounds but only 10 points.
CENTERS: Shaq might want to throw in a couple of hours of free-throw practice between making movies and recording rap CDs this summer. Granted, O'Neal was the only Laker to show up for the series (save the first game), so the sweep can't be blamed on him. But he went to the line on eight straight possessions in the last 3-1/2 minutes and he only hit 7 of 12 freebies. His biggest bricks came with 26 seconds left and the Lakers down by three. Malone then swished two in a row only seconds later. Shaq did end up with 38 points, including 19 in the fourth. For the second game in a row, Utah's best center was Greg Ostertag. He had 11 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and he only dropped the ball a couple of times in 30 minutes.
GUARDS: Reporters finally squeezed the truth out of a reluctant-to-make-excuses Jeff Hornacek. His Achilles heel during this series - in which he's struggled from the field - was his, well, Achilles heel. His foot and his shot were both better on Sunday when he scored 15 points, going 5-for-11. John Stockton was again steady but not spectacular, totaling eight points and eight assists. He was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 1:25. If Eddie Jones had played the entire series like he did the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter, the Lakers likely wouldn't have been swept under the Western Conference Finals rug. Jones scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter before he again disappeared. L.A. didn't get the point, again. Nick Van Exel went most of the way, finishing with 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting and five assists. Derek Fisher missed six of seven shots en route to just three points.
BENCHES: Once again, the Jazz substitutes had the Laker scrubs yelling "Uncle!" by the end of the game. Ostertag led the charge off the bench, but Howard Eisley and Chris Morris also played well. Eisley looked like the golden Griff during a stretch in the second quarter. He drilled three long-bombers from the great Western Forum parking lot to help the Jazz pull away before halftime. His back-to-back 3-pointers at the beginning of the second capped a 14-0 Utah run. Eisley added five assists with his nine points. Morris scored five points, including a trey at the opening of the fourth quarter to give Utah its biggest lead at 70-57. Kobe Bryant had three turnovers and only six points, but his three-point play brought the L.A. within two with 22.7 seconds left.
COACHING: Kudos to Jerry Sloan for not strangling Ostertag after the Big O and his hands of stone lost rebounds to Fisher and Shaq on one play in the first quarter. Instead, Sloan stuck with Ostertag, and his big-contract center paid him back with his best game of the sries. Del Harris finally blew a gasket and blamed the referees for the loss in his postgame remarks. Um, did you happen to see the final boxscore (Utah fouls: 32, L.A. fouls: 29) or see Shaq go to the line every time he touched the ball late in the game? Apparently not. Maybe Knug Fu Karl's massive kicking leg was blocking his view.