Some game. Thursday night at the Delta Center we had Dennis Rodman running over John Stockton, Karl Malone firing an elbow at J.R. Reid, and Reid getting a technical foul; we had glaring, staring, pushing and shoving; we had dunks and threes - and that was just the first quarter.

You should have seen the second quarter.In a game of near-playoff intensity, the Jazz let the Spurs know they aren't ready to concede the Midwest Division title just yet. San Antonio came in feeling like it'd finally figured out this Utah team, having posted three wins in four meetings this season, but the Jazz did their best to put some doubt in the Spurs' minds with a 120-113 victory. The loss dropped the Spurs 31/2 games behind Utah; Houston beat the Hornets and remains four games back.

"They (the Jazz) knew this was an important game to be ready for because this team has owned us," said Utah coach Jerry Sloan.

"We knew these guys were right behind us," said Jazz forward Karl Malone, who totaled 34 points (13 of 23), 10 boards, five steals and five assists and helped hold Spurs center David Robinson to a 4-of-13 shooting effort, for 15 points. "I think we got after it from the beginning of the game."

Spurs coach Bob Hill seemed to take some consolation from the fact it was close almost to the final buzzer.

"That was the worst performance we've had in I don't know how long, and we were right in the game the whole time - which is frustrating, because that's how good we can be," Hill said.

Translation: If the Spurs play even an average game for them, they win.

Funny thing, though, it looked to the untrained observer as if the Spurs were playing hard, diving for loose balls, scrapping for rebounds, getting all emotional - just like the Jazz.

There were two critical stretches in this game. That wild first quarter ended with the Spurs up 30-29, and with 1:34 left in the game Utah had pulled ahead 52-47. There had already been three technicals in the second period: one on Utah's David Benoit for objecting to Rodman's after-the-whistle antics ("When a play's over and he's still pushing and shoving, that's uncalled for"); one on Sloan for protesting Rodman's hipping Tom Chambers to the floor - after the whistle; and one on Rodman for unknown reasons (he doesn't talk to the nasty media, remember, so the best guess here is that it was for bad hair color - magenta? burgundy? black cherry?).

From that point, the Jazz scored eight straight points - not a blockbuster run, but enough to put them in control. Blue Edwards opened with two free throws, Jeff Hornacek added a free throw after a technical on Hill, Malone stripped the ball from Robinson and Hornacek buried a three, Robinson traveled and Stockton hit a pair of foul shots. Robinson ended the half with a layup, but the Spurs were behind by 11 and, on this night, it was too much.

The Spurs threatened again late in the fourth quarter, getting within four several times. Malone scored five straight Jazz points to hold San Antonio at bay, even though on one play - again, after the whistle - Rodman stuck his leg in front of the Mailman, who stepped on Rodman's foot and twisted his ankle.

"I guess I just twisted it on that invisible line out there," Malone said. "A lot of times guys do things to get you out of your game, things that aren't basketball. You know who I'm talking about."

With the score 107-103, Benoit hit the shot that probably finished the Spurs. From the left wing, he launched a three that hit the front of the rim, bounced high, kissed the glass and dropped through the net.

"I just wanted to give the crowd something to add a little excitement to the game," Benoit said.

"That was probably the nail," said San Antonio's Doc Rivers.

The Jazz tried to shake things up a little bit for this contest, after Tuesday's loss in San Antonio. Sloan gave Stockton his customary rests at different times than usual, tried a variety of lineups, and even ran some plays they don't usually run - but hustle and confidence were probably bigger factors.

"When we got behind at the Alamodome, we got down a little bit," Malone said. "That was the difference."

Malone was the game's high scorer. Hornacek finished with 24 points (5 of 13); Stockton totaled 19 points, 13 assists; Benoit contributed 13 and Tom Chambers had his best game in a while, hitting five of eight shots for 10 points.

For the Spurs, Sean Elliott scored 22, Avery Johnson had 16 points (four assists), Vinny Del Negro and Doc Rivers each added 14.

The Jazz next face Boston on Saturday night at the Delta Center.

GAME NOTES: Asked if the Jazz might make a deal before the Feb. 23 trading deadline, Sloan said, "I don't see anything, but I said that last year. As we get closer, there may be some conversations" . . . Hill complained to the scorer's table about the music being played at one point in the third quarter . . . More Sloan: Asked about trying different lineups, he said, "I listen to the radio a lot, and I try to do what the fans say. I've coached like that all year long." He even maintained a straight face while saying it.