OGDEN, Utah, Oct. 25 (AP) -- John Amaechi is starting to fit in with the Utah Jazz.


Payton

Amaechi
Amaechi scored nine of his 19 points in the fourth quarter as the Jazz blew a 24-point first-half lead but held on to beat the Seattle SuperSonics 103-98 in an exhibition game Thursday night.

"The last two games before this, I've started to feel like I know what's going on a little better," said Amaechi, who signed with Utah as a free agent after two seasons in Orlando.

"It's been the case that in the first half I really haven't done that much. In the second half, I feel I've improved," he said.

Donyell Marshall and Bryon Russell each scored 12 for the Jazz while John Crotty had 10 and Russian rookie Andrei Kirilenko had 10, including eight in the final period.

The Sonics had 12 turnovers in the first half and trailed 59-35 late in the second quarter. But they slowed the Jazz in the second half with a zone and tied it at 86 when Jerome James dunked with 4:31 remaining.

Utah coach Jerry Sloan wasn't happy about how his team blew a big lead.

"I told them at halftime that hopefully we would remember how we got that," Sloan said. "If you don't do all the right things, then the other team comes right back at you."

Kirilenko hit a free throw and Amaechi scored twice, using a fake to get James off his feet. Amaechi put in the easy layup to give Utah a 91-86 lead with 3:20 to play.

That was the start of a 13-0 spurt, with Kirilenko scoring seven, to put it out of reach. It also marked Amaechi's best effort of the preseason. He hit 6-of-8 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line in 24 minutes.

Amaechi said it took time for Utah to adjust to Seattle's second-half defense. League rule changes allow zones this season.

"That was the first time we've really seen a zone," Amaechi said. "In the NBA, as a professional, you're not really expecting that. You have to go years back, but I thought we were resilient about it."

Gary Payton scored 20 to lead Seattle while James, a journeyman who's fighting for a roster spot, scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Rashard Lewis scored 15 before fouling out with 2:39 to play.

"We didn't play the first half," Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. "We came out more aggressive on the defensive end of the floor and I think it just carried over to the offensive end."

Karl Malone returned to the Utah lineup after missing a four-game road trip. The team said he was in Louisiana with his hospitalized mother. He scored eight points on 2-of-10 shooting in 24 minutes.

The Sonics didn't have Vin Baker, who skipped the team's two-game road trip after injuring his back in practice this week. He is expected to return for next week's season opener at Sacramento.