By the end of the week-long trip, those zany Jazzmen were coming up with even more thrills and spills on the road. They went through three point guards in the first half. They rallied in the third quarter, only to collapse and fall behind by 10 points. They missed a last-second shot in regulation. They quickly lost a five-point lead in overtime.

And somehow, they still won. With Karl Malone taking a John Stockton pass and driving for a 3-point play, the Jazz escaped with a 123-120 victory over Denver Saturday night in McNichols Arena.Unconfirmed reports say this is the same team that lost by 29 at Portland Friday.

"We earned that one," Stockton said after the win, and who could argue? Playing on a travel day, Malone worked 47 minutes and scored 48 points, four short of his career high. Stockton, out early in the second quarter with three fouls, stayed on the floor for good after halftime.

So the Jazz (21-11) survived the four-game trip with two wins, staying two games behind San Antonio in the Midwest Division while coming home to play Denver again Wednesday. The crazy thing about the week was the Jazz's winning both games after playing the night before - and looking bad.

"You can't put a finger on that," said Malone. "I think everybody would like to know that answer."

Obviously, the more unlikely for the Jazz on the road, the better. The Nuggets were 12-1 at home and rested, but missed chances to seize the game. "We just didn't put them away when we could have or should have," forward Bill Hanzlik said.

In overtime, the Jazz almost gave the game back to Denver. After Stockton missed a 3-pointer that would have ended things, the Jazz charged ahead when Bobby Hansen hit a jumper and Malone scored twice inside. Denver answered with Todd Lichti's two free throws and ex-Jazzman Eddie Hughes' tying 3-pointer.

The Jazz again failed to score, and the key sequence came after Thurl Bailey blocked Lichti's shot out of bounds. Walter Davis took an in-bounds pass with the shot clock running down and missed badly on a jumper, setting up the vintage Jazz running play: Malone rebounds, feeds Stockton and races for a return pass and layup.

No sense waiting and setting up a last shot when you have a two-on-one chance - and the one is the 5-foot-10 Hughes.

"I like our chances with Karl running the floor and getting the ball on the run," Stockton said. "If we can get an easy one like that, we'll try to take it."

After Malone's free throw put the Jazz up by three with 8.7 seconds left, Lichti's try to tie was way short.

Malone finished 20 of 34 from the field and 8 of 12 from the line, while Hansen made 8 of 9 shots for 17 points and Stockton and Edwards added 16 each. Working mostly against Edwards, Davis was almost as unstoppable as Malone - 16 of 24 for 36 points.

Malone's game left the Nuggets asking for a little help. "Malone is tough enough to play when you are getting some calls, but when they don't call anything on him, it makes it even tougher," said Coach Doug Moe.

"When we stood our ground, we got called for the fouls and the 3-point play," noted Hughes. "When we played soft, he went around us."

The Jazz had questions of their own about Stockton's fouls, including back-to-back charges early in the second quarter. While Coach Jerry Sloan ended up yanking Delaney Rudd and playing Eric Johnson for the last five minutes of the half, the Jazz went to the locker room down by just 57-51 - thanks to Malone's 25 points.

"It's a wonder we weren't down a lot more," Sloan said later.

The Jazz made a move in the third quarter, but faded fast when Blair Rasmussen, Michael Adams and Fat Lever reeled off layups and Davis drilled a jumper. The Nuggets took an 88-78 lead into the fourth quarter, but here came the Jazz again. Stockton and Edwards drove for 3-point plays and, just like that, they were back in the game.

Later, they had the ball for four trips with a 107-105 lead, but never converted. One chance was lost when Malone crashed into Bill Hanzlik and referees Jimmy Clark (block) and Tom O'Neill (charge) made separate calls. The result was a double foul and a jump ball, not bad for the Jazz because Hanzlik fouled out on the play and the Jazz controlled the tip. But Malone missed a shot and Lever tied the game with an inside shot.

In the last minute, Edwards' drive tied the game and the Jazz had the last chance after Alex English was called for traveling. But Stockton's shot was short and everybody had to play five more minutes.

"In this league, you don't have time to pout if you had to play last night or got any bad calls," Stockton said. In the end, the Jazz had no complaints.

JAZZ NOTES: Malone was playing with a sprained big toe and Edwards will have X-rays on a jammed finger, suffered Friday at Portland . . . Stockton entered the game leading the NBA in three departments: assists (14.2), steals (3.0) and 3-point shooting (.541). Malone was second in scoring (29.4), fourth in field-goal shooting (.573) and fifth in rebounding (10.9) and Eaton was eighth in blocked shots (2.3).