By now the Golden State Warriors are starting to develop a nervous tic when they hear Karl Malone's name. Small wonder. They've tried everything short of backing over the Mailman with his own custom-made semi-truck, and nothing has come close to stopping him. Before the game ended Monday night at the Delta Center, the Warriors tried five different people on the Mailman, to no avail.
Malone racked up 42 points in 36 minutes and five other players scored in double figures as the Jazz thumped the Warriors 138-99. The win tied the Jazz with the Warriors for the second-best record in the Western Conference and gave them a 3-1 series edge this year."It was a mismatch. They totally dominated us. It was like a man against a child," said Golden State coach Don Nelson.
After completing their season series with the Jazz, the Warriors remain clueless at how to stop the Mailman. In the first game between the clubs, he rolled for 31 points. The next time he upped it to 34. That was followed by a season-high 44 points at Oakland Coliseum Arena in March. He polished off the series with his 42-point Monday night effort. All totaled, Malone averaged almost 38 points a game and made a remarkable 52 of 85 shots (61 percent).
"Karl Malone, you know he's doing most of the pushin' and shovin' and makin' the plays down low," said Warriors' guard Tim Hardaway. "But we're better than 40-point underdogs."
Nelson seemed flabbergasted at the way Malone was manhandling his team after the third game with the Jazz, saying they "had no answer for Karl Malone." Not much has changed in the seven weeks since then. The Mailman is still dominating the middle like a bus on a sidewalk.
"Everybody has an answer for somebody," said the Mailman, "but I hope they don't find it."
"Sure, we can work on something (to stop him)," said Warriors' center Alton Lister. "We should be able to do something. He doesn't do this every night."
Unless, of course, he's playing the Warriors. Before the first half was over, the Mailman had 26 points and Nelson was looking for volunteers.
From the beginning, the wheels were coming off Nelson's plan to frustrate the Mailman by physically punishing him. Bad idea. Nelson tried veteran Lister, but he picked up three fouls and a technical in less than six minutes. Lister gave way to second-year man Tyrone Hill. While Hill did a good job of looking tough and wrestling with Malone, that didn't work either. Hill collected four fouls in just five minutes.
"They kind of took us out of our game plan," said Nelson. "They had us in foul trouble so deep we started running out of bodies."
Hill was followed by rookie Victor Alexander, then rookie Chris Gatling, and Nelson finally tossed in third-year guard Vincent Askew. None had a pleasant day.
Certainly the Warriors haven't found an answer to the Jazz as a team, either. In four games, the Jazz won by scores of 27, 22 and 39 points and lost 108-103. The Jazz are responsible for the three biggest losses the Warriors have suffered all year. "And really we were lucky to win the one game," said Nelson.
Perhaps the Warriors' big mistake Monday was getting the Mailman mad. In the opening moments, Lister mugged the Mailman underneath, and though Malone glared at the officials in hopes of getting a flagrant foul, none came. Thirty-eight seconds later Lister held the Mailman again, after which Malone slapped Lister's arm. Malone was hit with a technical.
"Guys are just out doing what they're told to do," said Malone benignly, "and I have no problem with that. A guy's got to make a living."
The matter was quickly resolved in the third quarter. Nelson didn't start All-Star guard Tim Hardaway in the second half due to an injured knee. Hardaway sat out the rest of the game and fellow All-Star Chris Mullin played just eight minutes in the second half. Nelson indicated he wanted to see early in the third quarter if his team could make a run at the Jazz. If not, he would rest his key players.
"We certainly didn't burn anybody out for tomorrow," he said.
The Jazz lead climbed to 22 in the third quarter and got up to 41 in the fourth quarter when both teams had in the reserves. Malone was helped in the scoring department by Blue Edwards , John Stockton (16 points, 14 assists), Ty Corbin , David Benoit and Eric Murdock .
Five Warriors scored in double figures, led by Hardaway with 13.
The Jazz moved into a tie in the conference standings with Golden State. Should the teams end up with identical regular-season records and meet in the second round of the playoffs, the Jazz would have the home-court advantage after beating the Warriors three of four times this year.
Until then, the Warriors will have to work on finding some new and exotic way to contain the Mailman. "It looks like this team has our number," said Nelson. "They'd be difficult whenever you play them."