Karl Malone, by his own admission, didn't play up to par on Friday night in the CoreStates Center.

We should all have such bad days at the office.The Mailman scored 23 points - on 9-of-17 shooting from the field - with 16 rebounds and three assists in leading the Utah Jazz to a 91-79 victory over the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers. He also joined an elite group as one of the top five scorers in NBA history. Malone's 10th point of the night - early in the third quarter - gave him 27,314 for his career, one more than Elvin Hayes.

The only players who've scoredi more points than Malone are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Moses Malone. And Karl, barring an injury, will likely pass Moses in just three or four more games. He needs just 83 points to move into fourth place on the list.

"I kind of wish I would have played a better game than I played," said Malone when asked about passing Hayes. "I'm not done yet. When I retire I'll look back on it. It's a great accomplishment, but the most important thing tonight is that we won."

Said Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek, "The amazing thing about Karl is that when you think he had a bad night - like tonight - he'll finish with 23 points, 16 rebounds and shoot 50 percent. Those are Karl's bad nights. The rest of us wish we'd have those type of nights."

Malone had just four points in the first half and the Jazz led by only four. Then he had a big third quarter - with 12 points and seven boards - as the Jazz pulled away to lead by as many as 17 points.

"We did a good job passing the ball in the third quarter," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "The 76ers trapped, and we got some good looks at shots and hit them."

The Jazz have now won 19 of their last 21 games, but Friday night's victory was big because it came on the heels of a 26-point blowout on Wednesday night in Charlotte.

"The difference between tonight and Wednesday night," Hornacek observed, "is that we didn't stink."

Actually, the Jazz were quite smelly in the first quarter. The Sixers, despite playing without Derrick Coleman (sprained ankle) and Joe Smith (lower abdominal strain), jumped out to a 14-6 lead early in the game. It took the Jazz more than nine minutes to score nine points. They trailed 20-15 at the end of the opening quarter.

"We started off just like we played in Charlotte," said Jazz center Greg Foster, who just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine boards. "After being embarrassed the other day we were all trying too hard to get off to a good start, and we didn't play as a team. Then we settled down and played better."

Howard Eisley came off the bench and sparked a Jazz rally in the second quarter. He had six assists in a five-minute span. Greg Ostertag, playing in his second game since returning to the lineup after sitting out 17 games with a stress fracture to his left leg, made all three of his shots for six points in the quarter as the Jazz caught up and pulled ahead for good.

"Their bench really gave them a lift in the second quarter," said Philadelphia coach Larry Brown.

The Jazz put the game away early in the third quarter when Malone led an 11-0 run to give the Jazz a 54-41 advantage. Philadelphia - which had rookie forward Tim Thomas and star point guard Allen Iverson leave the game and not return with injuries in the second half - trailed by at least eight points the rest of the way.

Iverson, who sprained his right ankle in the fourth quarter, finished with 28 points. He was the only Sixer to net double figures.

The Jazz "are a great team," said Brown. "They're patient, they execute, they're selfless and that's why they win."

But the veteran Sixers coach, in his first year in Philly, liked some of the things he saw from his young team. "I'm proud. We kept on fighting," he said.

Jazz forward Antoine Carr, who strained his right hamstring against the Hornets, did not play.

He will return to Utah today to have his leg examined although the Big Dawg says it's just "precautionary."

The Jazz will complete their second extended road trip of March on Sunday in an NBC-televised battle against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. A victory would give Utah an impressive 9-1 record during their two long journeys East.

"We need to finish the trip off with a win," said Malone.

*****

Additional Information

Jazz 91, 76ers 79

FG FT Reb

UTAH Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts

Keefe 27 2-3 2-3 0-3 1 2 6

Malone 40 9-17 5-12 3-16 3 2 23

Foster 30 5-9 0-0 2-9 3 3 10

Hornacek 29 4-8 3-5 0-1 4 3 11

Stockton 27 2-7 1-1 1-4 5 0 5

Eisley 20 2-5 3-3 0-2 7 2 8

Ostertag 7 3-3 0-0 0-0 0 4 6

Anderson 24 4-7 3-4 1-2 1 0 11

Russell 26 1-5 4-4 0-2 0 4 7

Morris 8 1-3 0-0 1-2 1 1 2

Vaughn 2 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 2

Totals 240 34-68 21-32 8-41 25 21 91

Percentages: FG .500, FT .656. 3-Point Goals: 2-5, .400 (Eisley 1-1, Russell 1-4). Team Rebounds: 11. Blocked shots: 4 (Stockton 2, Malone, Russell). Turnovers: 15 (Eisley 3, Stockton 2, Ostertag 2, Anderson 2, Malone, Foster, Hornacek, Russell, Vaughn, team). Steals: 9 (Hornacek 3, Malone 2, Stockton 2, Keefe, Russell). Technical fouls: Malone, 4:28 second; Eisley, 6:47 second; illegal defense, 2:22 third. Illegal defense: 1.

FG FT Reb

PHIL Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts

Thomas 21 2-4 1-1 1-3 2 2 6

Ratliff 39 4-12 1-2 1-8 3 5 9

Williams 23 3-6 1-1 2-9 1 3 7

McKie 31 1-7 0-0 2-3 2 2 2

Iverson 40 11-21 5-7 1-3 3 4 28

Benjamin 27 1-3 4-6 1-2 0 4 6

Shaw 25 4-9 0-1 0-2 6 2 9

Snow 14 3-5 0-0 0-1 4 1 6

Davis 13 1-2 2-2 0-1 0 1 4

Parker 4 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 0 0

Stewart 3 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 2

Totals 240 31-70 14-20 8-33 21 25 79

Percentages: FG .443, FT .700. 3-Point Goals: 3-8, .375 (Thomas 1-1, Iverson 1-3, Shaw 1-3, McKie 0-1). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 6 (Ratliff 4, McKie, Parker). Turnovers: 17 (Iverson 6, Thomas 2, Ratliff 2, McKie 2, Shaw 2, Williams, Benjamin, Stewart). Steals: 7 (McKie 2, Snow 2, Iverson, Benjamin, Davis). Technical fouls: Illegal defense, 2:23 first; illegal defense, 1:10 second; illegal defense, 10:23 fourth, illegal defense, 3:38 fourth. Illegal defense: 1.

Utah 15 26 28 22-91

Philadelphia 20 17 21 21-79

A-20,832 (20,444). T-2:09.

Officials-Ronnie Nunn, Sean Corbin, Jim Clark.