It was Friday night at Reunion Arena, and that meant the worst for the Dallas Mavericks. The Mailman was in town.
For whatever reason, when Karl Malone gets in Dallas, people need to bolt the doors and lock the windows. These days, nobody makes them hurt like the Mailman.Malone pumped in 38 points and took down 16 rebounds and John Stockton added 21 points and 15 assists, to lead the Jazz to their third win of the year over the Mavericks, 110-99.
With the victory the Jazz, now 24-11, moved to within a game of division-leading San Antonio, the team they play tonight.
It was a gentler, kinder Mailman who addressed the media after the game. No woofing, no bragging, no speculating. "I don't do anything different here than anyplace else," he said. "I just go out and play, and hopefully we get a win."
For a few moments down the stretch, winning appeared in doubt. The Jazz, led by Malone's 12-point quarter, built their lead to 15 points with 4:25 to go. But the Mavericks charged back to pull within six, 96-90, with 2:34 to go. Derek Harper, scoring a season-high 33 points, led the way.
But in the last 2:10 the Jazz converted eight of 10 free throws to hold back the Mavericks and gain their sixth win in seven attempts against Dallas.
Friday's game was the Jazz's first public appearance since losing their shirts in a 108-85 embarrassment to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. In that game, John Stockton had a 3-13 shooting night and Jeff Malone was held to his second-lowest total of the season (10 points).
For the Mavericks, Friday represented the return of an old nemesis: Malone. Last year he scored 31, 30, 39 and 42 points against them. This year it's been 27, 35 and 38. A 42-point performance against the Mavs last year made Malone only the second player in the league - along with His Perfectness Michael Jordan - to score 40 or more that season. When the teams met Dec. 27 in Salt Lake, Malone scored 35 - the most by a Dallas opponent all year until he beat that on Friday.
Despite having 26 relatives/friends from the Dallas area in the stands, Malone insisted there was no special incentive. "I don't kick it up a notch. I just go play," he said. "I don't worry about all that other stuff. I just go do my job."
With Herb Williams out temporarily with bursitis of the knee and Roy Tarpley out for the season, the Mavs didn't have a lot of choices on what to do about Malone. The remaining options included any combination of Rodney McCray, Randy White and James Donaldson - none of whom are especially equipped to handle the Mailman.
Utah's advantage, though, was somewhat offset with the loss of Mark Eaton, who went home sick on Friday afternoon. In Eaton's place, the Jazz started with Mike Brown, who was coming off one of his better performances of the year - 12 points and seven rebounds in the Wednesday loss to the Lakers. Brown finished with four points and 10 boards.
From the game's start, Malone didn't dissapoint. He had 12 points in the first quarter and, after sitting out part of the second period, finished the half with 16, while Dallas' Derek Harper had 14.
When McCray was unable to stop Malone, the Mavs threw the dice with Donaldson, who added muscle but lost some in speed. But in the fourth period, Malone went for two fadeway shots farther out, thus taking Donaldson out of the picture, too.
Dallas ran off seven unanswered points early in the second quarter, but the Jazz responded soon after with six of their own, as the lead continued to change hands. McCray's three-pointer put the Mavericks ahead by three and Malone's score finished up the half with the Jazz trailing 48-47.
While the teams went about their buisness, two milestones - one major and one minor - were reached. Jazz forward Thurl Bailey's assist to Malone in the first period provided the 1,000th of his career. Alex English's banker in the second quarter wasn't so quiet an event. The basket moved him past Jerry West into 6th place on the NBA's alltime scoring list. As he stepped out of bounds, Jazz forward Thurl Bailey and Coach Jerry Sloan paused to shake English's hand.
Malone got off to a stirring start in the game, slam-dunking for his first basket and later in the period adding a spectacular rebound dunk, followed by a hammer dunk. "He got off to a good start," said Coach Jerry Sloan. "We got the floor spread out a little and Karl was able to get a couple of easy baskets. That thing kind of gives Karl a little bit of life."
But for the Mavericks, it was more like a slow death. "Karl Malone was awesome," said Mavs' Coach Richie Adubato. "We tried every player on our team, we tried to double team him. We changed our defense and went to a half-court trap, to try to get him away from the basket. We put James (Donaldson) on him to get a little more physical, but then he goes outside and can spin off him."
GAME NOTES: Mark Eaton missed Friday's game due to "flu or virus" symptoms. He left for Salt Lake Friday afternoon, where he will be examined by doctors. John Stockton and Thurl Bailey have had similar symptoms this week . . . Eaton previously played in 288 straight games, sixth-longest streak in the NBA . . . The Jazz lead the alltime series 34-27, but are 11-20 in Reunion Arena . . . The Jazz are 3-0 against the Mavs this year . . . Blue Edwards has averaged 10.3 points in his last seven games . . . Thurl Bailey needs 16 points to pass the 9,000-point mark for his career . . . The Jazz have won 10 of 13 and 16 of their last 19 . . .