After two straight losses, the Jazz have been fumbling around lately, trying to find their old winning rhythm. And what better antidote than Dick Motta's Kiddie Corps, the Sacramento Kings? You want wisdom and experience, see the Boston Celtics. You want somebody barely out of puberty, call the Sacramento Kings.
However, the answer didn't come all that easily. The Jazz struggled through 48 minutes of herky-jerky basketball, and 62 fouls, before producing a 105-93 victory at the Salt Palace, Friday night.As far as regaining a rhythm, this one had about as much as Julie Andrews. Before the game was half gone, Jazz starters Karl Malone, John Stockton and Blue Edwards were all in foul trouble. By the mid-third period Malone had four fouls, Edwards and Stockton three apiece. On the other side, four Kings had three fouls.
But these days even erratic officials and woofing opponents (the Kings' Antoine Carr had a few moments of verbal sparring with Malone) aren't getting to the Mailman. "Well," drawled Malone, "it wasn't pretty, but it was a win. Basically, in this business you learn to roll with the punches. You just gotta ro-o-l-l-l with the punches.
"I just made up my mind I wasn't going to let it get to me. You just go out and play and see what happens. That's the attitude I've tried to get here lately."
Sacramento has, of course, been among the dredges of the NBA since the start of the season. The Kings didn't get a win until their eighth game. They nearly set NBA history by scoring only 59 points against another disaster in the standings - the Charlotte Hornets - after which Coach Dick Motta began thinking about quitting. But things have begun to look up in recent days. The Kings won three straight and four of five prior to coming into the Salt Palace. That, despite the loss of star player Wayman Tisdale, who has been out with a torn tendon in his foot.
However, once the game in the Salt Palace began, there was little indication the Kings are going anywhere serious. In a herky-jerky first half, plagued by fouls, the Jazz built as much as a 12-point lead. During that time, the game was constantly being stopped by whistles or turnovers (10 turnovers for each team in the first 24 minutes). "It's hard to get a rhythm going, so you more or less try to just go out and play," added Malone.
The whistles left the Jazz scrambling for players who weren't in foul trouble. Malone played a mere 14 minutes in the first half, Edwards 10 and Stockton 17.
"I guess I'm just a hack," grinned Malone. When reminded they call that type of player a "goon" in hockey, Malone added, "Then I guess I'm just a goon."
The half ended with the Jazz nursing an unspectacular 52-43 lead.
The third quarter saw Utah maintaining its lead. Malone picked up his fourth foul while rolling to the hoop and Jeff Malone, who played just 31 minutes for the game, went down on a collision and came up limping. He played later, but ended up leaving for good a few minutes later.
Finally, the Jazz put the game away after seeing the Kings cut the lead to four on a Travis Mays free throw with 9:37 to go. Utah went on an 11-0 run and coasted in the rest of the way, pausing during fouls and timeouts, which took up a considerable share of the remainder of the time.
During the Jazz's run, Mike Brown registered the key play, muscling up for a layup and adding a free throw, boosting Utah's lead to 85-70.
While the Jazz talked about the strange pace of the game, the Kings - who have five rookies and one second-year man on the roster - weren't feeling half bad. "That Stockton, Malone and Malone trio is as good as any in the league. They had to have a win after New York (a 109-94 loss) and we knew we were going to hit into a buzzsaw . . . I thought our kids handled everything quite well," said Motta.
"We played real hard and as long as we keep playing this yard some good things are going to happen," said the Kings' Antoine Carr.
Rookie Lionel Simmons led the Kings with 19 points, followed by Carr's 18. Karl Malone scored 20 for the Jazz, but due to his foul problems, ended up playing just 29 minutes. Jeff Malone followed with 18 points in 31 minutes.
Saturday the Jazz continue their tour of the basement when they travel to Denver. The Nuggets, 10-30, surprised the Knicks, 120-117, the night after New York took the Jazz apart in the Salt Palace.
"I'm a little concerned about the way we are playing right now," said Jeff Malone. "The way that New York beat us and the way we played tonight really gives me some concern. We've got Denver tomorrow and we have to pick it up in order to win."
GAME NOTES: Jazz guard John Stockton's nine assists left him just one behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time assist list. Jabbar ranks 14th on the list . . . Guard Jeff Malone pulled a groin muscle in Friday's game and said afterward he isn't certain if he'll be able to play against the Nuggets . . . Mark Eaton's 15 rebounds was a season high.