The Mailman returned Saturday night. Just like always, Jazz forward Karl Malone was scoring, rebounding and talking in Memorial Coliseum.
Malone had 37 points and 16 rebounds after responding to a poor outing in Game 1 by refusing interviews. After Game 2, he talked about not talking."I just wanted to get ready in my own special way," he said after the Jazz's 114-105 victory. "I just came in with the attitude to play hard and win the ballgame. I didn't have it in my mind to show the media; that's why I didn't talk."
He showed something, making 12 of 21 shots and 13 of 16 free throws in a game that resembled the way he finished the regular season nothing like the way he played Thursday.
"He knew what he was up against after that game; he adjusted and he came through," said teammate Mark Eaton.
The Mailman was more aggressive in Game 2, not pulling up for baseline jumpers. "I took the ball harder to the glass this time; that was the adjustment I made," Malone said.
In the first half alone, Malone answered all questions about his playoff mentality. He'd unwittingly turned himself into the No. 1 story of the series with his performance in Game 1 Thursday, when he made only 5 of 22 shots for 16 points and refused interviews afterward for only the third time in his career and the only time when he wasn't ejected from the game.
The no-comment stance stood through Friday's practice, and who knew how the Mailman would respond in Game 2? Would he come back determined, stay cool under pressure and play the game of his life? Or would he remain frustrated, force shots and fall into a series-long slump?
His 23 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes of the first half set the tone for his game. He jawed briefly with a referee after a no-call under the basket, but kept the composure he'd lost in Game 1.
In the second half, he missed his first two shots and passed up a few outside openings, but delivered a jumper that gave the Jazz a 12-point lead with 9:40 left and later made four free throws to keep them from fading.