Derrick Stafford either has a lot of courage or is not very bright. The slender referee egged on an already agitated Jerry Sloan late in the third quarter, causing the Jazz coach to want to rip Stafford's head off. Sloan might have, too, had referee Hugh Evans and the Jazz assistant coaches not held him back.

Sloan was having a heated talk with Evans during a timeout with 2:18 remaining in the third period, explaining why he thought San Antonio had been using an illegal defense all night. Stafford was on the other side of the court, but when he and the coach made eye contact the referee said "(expletive) you," to Sloan.The Jazz coach, who already had been issued one technical and would have been thrown out with another, wanted to go after Stafford - but was held back until he was able to calm down a bit.

Sloan was asked after the game if he was trying to pick up his second technical to get ejected.

"No. Do you know how much money that costs? You think I'm crazy. Hell, no, I didn't want to get thrown out."

When asked what made him so upset he would only say, "You'll have to go ask Mr. Stafford."

LOADED AUDIENCE: The 26,086 Karl Malone-haters in the Alamodome made up the largest crowd the Jazz have ever played before in a playoff game. Several Spurs players credited the crowd as a major contributor to the victory, but San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich had the best line.

"Utah and Phoenix are probably the toughest places to play," he said. "But when you get 26,000 people in here going crazy, drinking beer and eating burritos, it's a wild place."

RETALIATION? Karl Malone didn't want to talk about it and David Robinson downplayed it, but their double technical foul with 48.6 seconds remaining in the first half raised questions as to whether the altercation had anything to do with their past history. On April 8 in the Delta Center, Malone threw an elbow that knocked Robinson out. The Spurs center spent a night at LDS Hospital because of it.

Saturday's incident followed Malone fouling Robinson as he drove to the basket.

"I just felt like after I made my move there was an extra little shove after the play and I responded to it," Robinson said of the exchange. "It was just part of the play, part of the game."

IT MAY HAVE BEEN AVOIDED: The Jazz tied an NBA playoff record by scoring 64 points in Game 3. It marked the fourth time in postseason history that the low mark was reached. Utah joins the following teams in the record book:

- Charlotte Hornets at Atlanta (April 28, 1998).

- Orlando Magic at Miami (April 24, 1997).

- Portland Trail Blazers at Utah (May 5, 1996).

The Jazz may have avoided becoming the first team on both sides of the ledger had Chris Morris not dribbled away the final seconds of action Saturday. After Monty Williams scored to make it 86-64, Utah simply allowed the final 14.4 seconds to expire without running a play. A half-hearted long shot by Morris missed the mark and wouldn't have counted anyway. It was at-tempted after the buzzer had sounded.

HATE MAIL: The Alamo will always be remembered here. And on Saturday, San Antonio made it quite clear they haven't forgotten about the elbow, either.

Jazz forward Karl Malone was greeted by a chorus of boos and signs from Spurs fans venting their anger for the April 8 incident in the Delta Center that sent David Robinson to the hospital. The jeers began as soon as the Mailman took the floor for warm-ups and remained a constant.

The Texas-sized reaction came despite a printed plea from San Antonio Express-News sports writer Jerry Briggs in Saturday morning's newspaper. He outlined the entire situation, noting that Malone had visited Robinson at LDS Hospital and apologized, the subsequent NBA suspension and the league's determination that Malone's elbow was reckless and not malicious in nature.

"It is time, my friends," Briggs wrote, "for everyone to get over this."

Few, however, apparently got the word.

C'MON DOWN: To boost attendance at the spacious Alamodome Sunday, the Spurs have opted to televise the game locally only on a pay-per-view basis. TNT will also broadcast Game 4, but under NBA guidelines their coverage must be blacked out in all ZIP codes within 35 miles of the arena. As such, San Antonio-area fans are left with two options to see the game - shell out a whopping $24.95 to watch it at home, or head to the Alamodome.

Spurs vice president of broadcasting Lawrence Payne said there's a motive behind the madness.

"The bottom line is we want people in the Alamodome cheering," he said. "We want a set of lungs and a mouth in every seat."