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Malone admits focusing on game was tough

3/20/2003

PHOENIX (AP) -- Once the Utah Jazz began running their offense the way it was designed, Karl Malone took control.

Malone scored 20 of his 34 points in the second half to lead the
Jazz to a 99-86 victory Wednesday night over the Phoenix Suns.

"We executed more in the second half,'' said Malone, who
finished 11-of-24 from the floor and 12-of-13 on free throws.
"Coming down the stretch we kept pressure on them the whole time
without getting caught up in all the other stuff.''

That everything else included President Bush's address to the
nation, which came a few minutes into halftime.

"It lets you know that this is just a game that you're
playing,'' Malone said. "It was weird but we had a job to do.
Coach is saying to get your head in the game but that's easier said
than done. Those could be your brothers and sisters out there.''

Mart Harpring added 24 for the Jazz, who won their second
straight to pull even with the idle Los Angeles Lakers for sixth
place in the Western Conference. Greg Ostertag added 13 points, 14
rebounds and four blocks.

"We've changed out defenses a lot, trying to throw different
schemes at them and trying to change the game,'' Harpring said.
"We created some turnovers, which was a big key.''

As a team, the Jazz shot 60.6 percent in the second half
(20-of-33) to finish at 47.8, just ahead of their season average of
46.7 percent.

"I thought our offense was a little bit better when everyone
was thinking about running it,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "In
the second half we did a better job of executing around the basket.
If we were athletic enough I wouldn't care how we play, but we're
not very athletic.''

Shawn Marion scored 22 points and Amare Stoudemire added 17
points and 12 rebounds for the Suns, who have lost four of their
last six. They began the night tied with Houston for eighth place
in the West.

"In the second half it was a clinic by the Jazz,'' said Suns
coach Frank Johnson. "The things that we talked about, with having
no backdoor cuts, kept going and kept going. With the backdoor
cuts, getting fouled and dropping the ball off to people, that was
very disappointing.''

Stephon Marbury, who entered the game averaging 23.3 points per
game, finished with 11 on 5-of-22 shooting.

"We're not good enough to try and stop anybody,'' Sloan said.
"We knew we needed to try to keep them in a halfcourt game so they
didn't get a chance to do what they can do.''

Malone was 7-for-14 from the floor in the second half as Utah
extended a one-point halftime lead to as many as nine. The Jazz
added to their lead in spite of a third-quarter field-goal drought
of almost four minutes, taking advantage of three straight Phoenix
fouls and converting five of six free throw attempts to take a
66-57 with 2:31 left in the quarter.

Phoenix used a full-court press on two possessions to cut Utah's
lead. Bo Outlaw scored off an offensive rebound, and Marion and Joe
Johnson made consecutive shots as the Suns pulled to 69-64 with
37.6 seconds to go.

But the Jazz gradually pulled away. Andrei Kirilenko scored on a
dunk with 1.5 seconds left, Malone hit consecutive shots at the
start of the fourth and Kirilenko added a 20-foot jumper as Utah
opened a 79-69 lead with 7:43 remaining. The Suns never got closer
than seven after that.

"We put them in situations where they were going to get a
bucket or free throws,'' Marion said. "I guess we were a step
behind.''

Game notes
The Jazz won three of four games against the Suns and hold
the tiebreaker should the teams end up tied. ... Phoenix forward
Tom Gugliotta did not dress because of back spasms. ... Utah made
more free throws (29-of-33) than the Suns attempted (13-of-21). ...
President Bush's address was broadcast over the arena's video
boards and received a standing ovation.