SALT LAKE CITY -- The Mailman is apparently feeling better
now, even if he doesn't want to talk about it.
After missing just the 10th game of his career, Karl Malone
responded with season highs in scoring, rebounding and assists
while leading the Utah Jazz to a 110-97 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
Malone finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists,
but didn't have much to say afterward.
"I don't think nobody'' cares, Malone said of the flu that kept
him out of a game and a week of practice. "You guys make all the
assumptions that you want.''
Other than his abrupt postgame interview, Malone appeared in
good spirits Friday night, showing no lingering effects of the
illness that kept him out of Wednesday's loss to Detroit. He also
missed a week of practice after going scoreless in 15 minutes of a
loss at Seattle on Sunday, the only time he hasn't scored in his
"Karl was healthy and alive, and we are really happy to have
him back,'' said John Stockton, who had 11 points and seven assists
for the Jazz.
Malone led Utah to its highest point total this season, topping
the 101 the Jazz had last Saturday against Golden State in their
only other win of the season.
"Karl looked healthy again tonight. He looked like he had had a
couple pretty good meals,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "He's
always tried to play whenever he hasn't felt good. Hindsight's
always great. Maybe if he hadn't played at Seattle it wouldn't have
weakened him so much. I'm never going to tell a guy not to play.''
It wasn't just Malone playing well Friday. Utah also had its
best shooting night of the season, making 49 percent (40-of-82)
from the floor. The Jazz hadn't shot better than 43 percent in
their first five games.
Jason Terry scored 31 to lead the Hawks, who had 17 turnovers
and were outrebounded 43-25.
"We've got a ways to go,'' Atlanta coach Lon Kruger said. "And
when we get knocked around like we did tonight it points that
Seven of Malone's rebounds were defensive, where the Jazz held a
27-19 advantage. Malone also had three steals and a block.
"We felt his defensive presence more than anything,'' Stockton
said. "Sure, he's going to score. We know that and they know that.
But it was his defense, first and foremost.''
Atlanta had no answer for Malone, who tied a season high by
playing 39 minutes despite sitting out most of the second quarter.
Malone was 10-for-15 from the field and made 7-of-9 free throws.
Malone converted a four-point play during an 18-2 run early in
the third quarter as the Jazz pulled ahead to stay. He made a layup
over Theo Ratliff, who was called for a foul and subsequent
technical. Malone made the technical and the foul shot to put the
Jazz up 61-54, then Stockton made a jumper from just inside the
3-point line for the Jazz's 12th unanswered point.
"We just couldn't recover from that,'' said Robinson, who had
30 last week in a win over the Jazz but finished with just 16
Friday. "We made a lot of unforced errors. I know I had a lot of
turnovers in the third quarter that kind of took us out of our
Utah pulled away by as much as 15 in the fourth before the Hawks
went on one final comeback attempt. Emanual Davis hit a 3-pointer
and two free throws and Terry added a jumper during a 9-2 run that
drew Atlanta to 100-92, but the Hawks started fouling and Harpring,
Malone and Stockton each went 2-for-2 from the line to seal it.
Dion Glover finished with 13 points for the Hawks.
Stevenson scored 11 for the Jazz.
The NBA's new instant replay rule was used twice, both
going in the Jazz's favor. Greg Ostertag's 3-point miss was ruled
to have gone off with .2 seconds left in the second quarter.
Ostertag was fouled on the play and went 2-for-3, getting the Jazz
to 52-51 at halftime. Mark Jackson's jumper at the end of the third
quarter was also questioned. It was immediately clear that Jackson
got the shot off in time and the Jazz led 85-77. ... Atlanta's Theo
Ratliff was called for two fouls in the first 34 seconds of the
game. ... Kirilenko had three dunks in the first 3 minutes,
including the first basket of the game when the opening tipoff
kicked out to him and he went untouched.