It was what you would expect when the Jazz and the Sixers get together on a cold midwinter night. Trash talking and shot-swatting. Four technicals and a flagrant foul. Long arms and big backsides. And, naturally, a gripping finish.
But what you wouldn't expect is Sir Charles Barkley, a 74 percent free throw shooter, to be firing blanks at the end. Barkley missed four free throws in the final minute, as the Jazz took a 102-99 victory at the Salt Palace Friday night.When it was over and all the trash had been talked (well, almost all the trash), the Jazz had escaped with their fourth consecutive victory and the Sixers had suffered their fourth consecutive defeat.
As advertised, nobody got cheated when it came down to sheer entertainment. There was Manute Bol, sweeping away two straight Karl Malone shots in the fourth quarter and woofing at the Mailman in a language Malone claimed he didn't understand. "That's Manute's game," said Malone. "But they didn't win, that's all I'll say."
There was Rick Mahorn, as nasty and unapologetic as always, drawing a flagrant foul in the second period.
And there was Jeff Malone, lapsing into another shooting trance, scoring 14 points in the third quarter, 24 in the second half, to lead the Jazz through a dangerous spell of trouble.
And lastly, there was Barkley, brilliant all night with 35 points, finishing up as cold as the night air by missing four straight times and blaming himself aloud for what went wrong.
"I'll take the blame for this one and come out ready to play tomorrow," Barkley said. "I tell them to keep it close and I will win it - that's the only rule I have. Tonight I had my chance to win it and I missed the free throws. I let them down. I'll take the blame tonight."
Certainly the Sixers have to be one of the strangest collections in basketball. Seven-foot-7 Bol patrols the middle like an giant leaning icepick, swatting at anything that comes near the basket. He finished the night with five blocks, while his Jazz counterpart, 7-4 Mark Eaton, blocked four. Mahorn and Barkley present two of the largest backsides in the business, and know how to use them. But it was Mahorn's hands that got him in trouble this night, as he threw Karl Malone to the floor on a second-quarter layup and drew a flagrant foul.
All the emotion had a predictable effect. Karl Malone and Barkley each picked up a technical, as did Mahorn and Philadelphia Coach Jim Lynam.
"It's tough on the road," mused Barkley. "That's a pretty good team over there."
After leading by nine at the end of the third quarter, the Jazz suddenly found themselves with a problem. Sixers' forward Ron Anderson was on his way to an eight-point quarter. Andersen opened the period with a 21-footer and after a Hersey Hawkins layup, he added three more baskets to give Philadelphia an 81-80 lead.
During Anderson's run, Malone went inside for a hook shot, and was blocked by Bol, who followed up with an impressive display of woofing. Malone responded in kind. "The main one talking is the one who can't play worth (expletive)," said Malone. "No matter who we play, that's always the one talking all the time."
Despite a 14-point third quarter, the Jazz's Jeff Malone wasn't finished. After resting up, he came back with 8:27 to go to scord two quick baskets. He totaled 10 more points in the fourth period.
"It doesn't take any description to tell you about Jeff," said Coach Jerry Sloan. "Anyone can watch the game and know he was a great, great factor."
The Jazz were holding 96-95 lead in the final minute, when John Stockton fouled Barkley, who promptly missed twice. Karl Malone, who totaled 24 points, sank a crucial jumper from the wing with 32 seconds left.
Thurl Bailey, who had been dispatched with orders to glue himself to Anderson's shirt, forced Anderson into shooting an air ball on a three-point attempt. Jeff Malone landed two free throws with 11.7 seconds remaining, and Barkley then missed two more free throws.
Hersey Hawkins made a pair four seconds later, cutting Utah's lead to 100-97, but by then it was over but the fouling.
The win moved Utah's record to 21-10 while the Sixers dropped to 19-12.