John Stockton needed three more points on Wednesday night to notch the 15,000th of his career. He had more than a quarter-and-a-half to get them, too. His next long-range jumper or a layup with a free throw would have been enough. Plans were already in place to halt the game briefly for the veteran Utah Jazz point guard to be presented with the ball.
Karl Malone, meanwhile, had 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists with more than 14 minutes remaining. He needed only one assist and one board for his third career triple double.But Stockton didn't reach his 15,000-point milestone, and Malone didn't get his triple double - which was fine with them and especially gratifying to Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.
It meant that the Jazz bench had maintained the double-digit lead they had been hand-ed.
The Jazz beat the Sacramento Kings for the first time this season, 110-95, Wednesday night in the Delta Center with Stockton and Malone playing far fewer minutes than usual and Jeff Hornacek not playing at all for the first time in years.
Stockton came out of the game with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. Malone left with two minutes left in the third. Neither one returned.
"I didn't know how well we'd play when we took those guys out," said Sloan. "We took Karl out with about two minutes to go in the third quarter so I could rest him in case I had to go back with him. Fortunately, we didn't have to put him back in the ballgame."
When Malone came out, the Jazz led by 15. The Jazz ended up winning by the exact same margin as the entire fourth quarter was reduced to garbage time.
The Jazz improved to 45-16 with the victory. It was their eighth consecutive win and their 15th in 16 games. The Kings, who beat the Jazz twice this season, fell to 26-39.
"I was proud of my team tonight," said Sacramento coach Eddie Jordan.
Proud of his team?
The Kings allowed the Jazz to shoot 59.4 percent from the field, the best by any Sacramento opponent all year. The Kings' only lead of the game was at 2-0. The Jazz out-rebounded Sacramento by six. And the Kings' defense - against the Jazz starters particularly - was nearly nonexistent.
Utah made its first 12 shots in the first quarter to take an early lead it would never surrender. The Jazz starters finished the game 28-of-35 from the field - an amazing 80 percent.
"They got a lot of layups and buckets inside," said Sacramento guard Mitch Richmond. "We just didn't execute on defense the way we wanted to."
Malone hit all seven of his first-half shots. He was 11-of-15 for the game. Stockton scored 16 points on 6-of-7 from the field and 2-of-2 from the foul line. Adam Keefe made all of his shots in scoring nine points.
And Shandon Anderson - making his first-ever NBA start - was 6-for-8 from the field for 14 points.
"When you start, you're just basically thrown into the pit," said Anderson. "All in all, it's really not different (from coming off the bench). You just have to be ready to play from the beginning."
Anderson started in place of Hornacek, who sat out with a sore right knee. Had he played, it would have been Hornacek's 300th consecutive game dating back to 1994. He called his injury "a minor thing" and said he just needed a couple of days to rest the knee before getting back into the lineup.
While the Jazz bench players didn't shoot, as a whole, with the accuracy of the starters, forward Bryon Russell was on fire. He went 5-of-6 from the field - 3-of-3 from 3-point range - and finished with 17 points. All three of his long-range bombs came in the second quarter when the Kings were attempting to keep the game close. Russell's 3-pointer with one second remaining in the first half gave the Jazz an eight point advantage at the break.
"We're just having fun," said Russell. "We're clicking at the right time and hopefully we can continue to click for the rest of the season."
Richmond and forward Corliss Williamson led the Kings in defeat with 21 points each.
The Jazz should run their winning streak to nine straight on Friday night when they face the strug-gling Vancouver Grizzlies in the Delta Center. Should the Jazz beat Vancouver, they'll have a better record than they had a year ago - when they went on to win a franchise-record 64 games.
Saturday afternoon, the Jazz will head back on the road for their second five-game trip of the month. This one will likely be more difficult than the 5-0 trip they just returned home from, however, as they'll face stiffer competition - like the Hornets and Knicks.