LOS ANGELES — Jerry Sloan admitted he's biased when it comes to Karl Malone comparisons.
That fact became evident when the Jazz coach was asked before Sunday's 109-97 win for his thoughts on comparisons between The Mailman and the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin.
"He's missed more games than Karl missed in 18 years," Sloan said, fondly recalling his reliable deliverer. "That's the first comparison I would make."
Sloan chuckled and then rattled off a list of compliments in Griffin's direction, which included the Hall of Fame coach calling the power forward "an unbelievable athlete."
The non-Mailman had a major kneecap injury issue that kept him out last season, but he did not take this Sunday off.
Griffin scored a game-high 35 points, impressively hitting 13-of-21 shots in an outing that included a powerful trademark dunk, spin moves, off-the-backboard buckets to mid-range jumpers.
The explosive Griffin nearly single-handedly kept the Clippers in this game, piling up 21 first-half points as L.A. took a 60-52 halftime lead.
"Griffin is such a wonderful young player," Sloan said after the game. "My goodness … you can't say enough about his abilities."
Even so, the Jazz had plenty of compliments for some defense that was played against Griffin, too.
Center Francisco Elson, a 34-year-old veteran who's 13 years older than Griffin, helped limit the Rookie of the Year candidate to only four points and one rebound in the fourth quarter as the Jazz pulled away from the Clippers.
Sloan admitted it was "a tough assignment" for Elson, but he credited the gritty Dutchman for a strong showing.
"Fran, I thought, tried to get up and guard him and force him out away from the basket a little bit more," Sloan said. "You're not going to stop him. He's so talented."
Added Deron Williams about Elson: "He played great. Cisco's been great for us all year. His energy. He's great on defense, can pass the ball offensively. He's just getting comfortable out there."
And making opponents uncomfortable.
Elson ended up playing a season-high 21 minutes, scoring seven points with four rebounds, four assists and two steals along with his defensive duty.
Elson didn't take credit, though.
"We basically did it as a team," he said.
The nine-year veteran also came away impressed with the Clippers' star.
"He's very athletic. ... People look up to him already because he is so explosive and he has a lot of talent," Elson said of the 6-10, 251-pounder. "He has a ways to go, but he will improve as he works and as he plays."
By the way, Utah's Hall of Fame No. 32 only missed 10 games in his Jazz career, playing in 1,434 of 1,444 possible regular-season contests. The Clippers' No. 32 has played in all 18 games this year for the Clippers, but he missed all 82 games last season due to his knee surgery.
COMEBACK CREW: Sloan was asked what the key has been for the Jazz as they've managed to rally out of double-digit deficits eight separate times this season to win, including twice against the Clippers.
"Our guys have played pretty well together," he said, following Utah's win that required a comeback from 10 points down in the third quarter. "And our bench has given us a tremendous lift to put us in a position to win a lot of those games."7 comments on this story
Sloan specifically credited reserves Earl Watson, Ronnie Price, C.J. Miles, Kyrylo Fesenko and Elson for giving the Jazz some needed gusto and giddy-up at times.
Added Sloan: "It's been fun."
MISC.: The Jazz matched their longest winning streak of the season with five in a row, which they first did from Nov. 6-13. ... Utah's two-game rebounding victory streak was snapped, though. The Clippers out-rebounded the Jazz 39-28 and 14-4 on the offensive glass. ... Utah has won nine of the past 10 games against the Clippers, who've blown a combined lead of 28 points in their last two losses to the Jazz.