The Mailman, Ironman, whatever we're calling him these days, Karl Malone has played nearly every game for the past 13 years, and the one single night I get a chance to meet him, Karl's sitting in his La-Z Boy recliner, watching the game at home.
With Karl out, Chris Morris got his first start in almost two years, and the Clippers were hoping the absence of the reigning MVP would put some wind in their sails. With the Jazz nearing their second 60-victory season in a row, the Clippers have notched 60 losses . . . talk about a ride on the Titanic.I couldn't believe how big the players looked in person, and when Morris received a technical foul in the first quarter, I could actually hear what earned him the violation, instead of lip reading like I normally do. While the Jazz played consistently throughout the night with their league-best half-court offense, they did struggle at times.
Greg Foster, in an attempt to play point guard, dribbled the ball the length of the court, then passed it out of bounds. But on the next trip down the court, he completed a rebound and put-back slam that pretty much defined the rest of the game. The first quarter ended with the Jazz leading 32-24.
While the Jazz maintained solid leads throughout the first half, the portion of their game that scares me the most surfaced. Slow rotation on the defense allowed the Clippers to go 4-for-8 from 3-point territory. But offensively, Utah played well with Foster scoring 12 points in the first half, thanks to Karl having no points and no rebounds. Hornacek finished the half with 13 points as the Jazz balanced out their scoring very well.
With eight minutes left to play in the third quarter, James Robinson earned his second technical foul and an ejection. Hornacek, the second-leading free-throw shooter in the league, became the third-leading free thrower when he missed his second free throw of the game. I could actually see the pain on his face (that's how close I was).
The second half proved to be prosperous for the Jazz as they built a lead to win the game rather than losing a large lead - something we concern ourselves with as Jazz fans.
Morris hit a three to raise the score to 78-62, then pulled down a rebound and a strong put-back for two in the third quarter. Playing time has looked good on Morris lately. At the end of the third quarter, the Jazz led 93-74, and at that point, I noticed another final score: San Antonio 99, Seattle 84. Rest easy, Karl; you, too, David Robinson.
The fourth-quarter lead built to the point that Stockton and Hornacek got some rest late in the game - finally. The players of the game, in this cub reporter's opinion, were Howard Eisley, who scored a career-high 22 points, allowing Stockton his early departure, and Hornacek, who scored 23 points on 10 of 17 from the field. My highlight of the game goes to Morris, who left the game to a standing ovation, with 16 points in 26 solid minutes.
Jacque Vaughn scored the final shot of the game on a jump shot with seven seconds left, making the final score 126-109. All Jazz players, make that all non-suspended players, got on the scoreboard.
Karl, I hope you enjoyed your rest (at my expense), but as we say in the 34th Fighter Squadron, "Playtime's over, it's time to put bombs on target." The season's about to get tougher, and defense wins games! As for you, Loren Jorgensen, don't worry, I won't quit my day job!