Karl Malone doesn't want any regrets this offseason.
"In the past, I always looked back and said I could have done this, or I could have done that," he said. "I don't want to leave any doubt this time that I left everything I had on the floor."While the Mailman's 25-point, 14-rebound effort in Game One of the Utah Jazz's best-of-five playoff series against the Houston Rockets was nothing to be ashamed of, he's not satisfied.
He spent extra time after Friday's practice working on his jump shot and free throws, in preparation for tonight's Game Two, at 8 p.m. He's also making mental adjustments, because he felt he was hesitant with his shot Thursday and did too much second-guessing. And, he said, he did a poor job coping with no whistles when he "got murdered going to the basket" early in the game.
"I wasn't as focused as I should have been the first seven minutes (of the game)," he said. "I know I can do better."
That theme, in fact, of "We can do better," was echoed many times in both locker rooms after the Jazz's 102-100 victory.
"We still had many chances to win this game even though we don't feel we played our best," said Houston's Clyde Drexler.
"Certain guys played well . . . but overall we can play better," said Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek.
One guy who couldn't possibly play any better is Houston center Hakeem Olajuwon. He scored 45 points, hitting 20 of 30 shots.
"It's not like he was hitting easy ones, either," Hornacek said. "Our guys did as good a job as they could defending him."
Jazz assistant coach Gordon Chiesa said it will be interesting to see how the Rockets react to the fact Olajuwon scored 45 but they still lost.
The question, he said, is, "Will they go to Olajuwon almost exclusively again, or will they make an effort to get the other guys going?" The Jazz made a concerted effort to keep Houston's three-point shooters under control Thursday, while the Rockets seemed intent on doing the same to Hornacek. In past games against Houston, Hornacek has responded to close defense at the three-point line by driving the lane for shots, but when he did that this time, the Rockets packed the lane. The result was a 2-for-10 night for a guy who shot 51.4 percent from the floor on the season.
"The good thing is, I can play like that and we still win," Hornacek said.
The Jazz guard said he didn't notice anything especially different about Houston's defensive attack - "If they did, they hid it well" - and pointed out that while he struggled, John Stockton lit up the Rockets for 28 points.
"No matter how they defend us, someone will be there to score," he said.
Hornacek thought the big factor in somewhat shaky play by both teams was just the emotion of playing in the opening game.
"It was the first game, the crowd was yelling and screaming, we were hyped up pretty good," he said.
"It wasn't a smooth effort by any of us," Tom Chambers added. "We know we can play better, and we're going to have to do that."