Game 2 of the Jazz's preseason schedule offered a few surprises. Karl Malone was ejected late in the third quarter. First-round draft choice Blue Edwards started at forward. Two undrafted rookies made strong showings. And the Jazz hung on for a 109-107 over the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday night in The Omni.
The Jazz (1-1) and Hawks (2-1) will meet again Saturday night in the Salt Palace.Malone's ejection came on a second technical foul, after he'd already racked up 26 points in 26 minutes. Thurl Bailey took over the scoring duties from there, finishing with 20 points in 24 minutes. Darrell Griffith was even more efficient, scoring his 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting in just 13 minutes.
With Bailey and rookie forward Raymond Brown scoring nine points each in the fourth quarter, the Jazz took a 109-104 lead into the last minute. Cliff Levingston cut the lead to two points with a 3-point shot, but the Hawks came no closer. Another Jazz rookie, guard Eric Johnson missed two free throws in the final seconds but retrieved his own rebound, allowing the Jazz to run out the clock.
Making his first preseason appearance, Johnson was scoreless but collected six assists, three rebounds and two steals in 14 minutes. Good outings for him and Brown either assured them of surviving Coach Jerry Sloan's next roster cut - or made Sloan's decision tougher. The Jazz have 16 players in training camp and 15 played against the Hawks, while Eric Leckner stayed home with a thigh bruise.
Edwards' starting at forward was a new development, although he has spent considerable practice time at the position. The 6-foot-5 swingman scored nine points and defended All-Star Dominique Wilkins reasonably well, helping the Jazz lead throughout the first half. Wilkins did lead the Hawks with 21 points, while Levingston and Antoine Carr added 14 each. Carr also had 11 rebounds - including, remarkably, 10 offensive boards.
Just as they did in a regular-season win at Atlanta last March, the Jazz made life difficult for the Atlanta shooters. The Hawks shot only 33 percent from the field to the Jazz's 52 percent, but stayed in the game largely because they made a whopping 43 of 55 free throws - the Jazz commited 40 fouls.
Atlanta plays at Houston tonight before coming to town for the Jazz's only Salt Palace exhibition. The Jazz will also play in Ogden against Portland next Wednesday and in the Huntsman Center against Phoenix Oct. 30.