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It's safe to say that most of Sunday's NBA All-Star Game was not the brand of basketball usually participated in by Karl Malone and John Stockton.

"It was a little free and loose," Stockton said."It was a very loose start," Malone agreed." A lot of people doing fancy stuff . . . instead of just trying to win the game."

Indeed, certain All-Stars seemed to be far more interested in looking cool and making the crowd-pleasing play than in doing the routine things - like defending.

"It seemed like everybody laid back the first quarter, instead of playing to win," Malone said. "We just kind of went through the motions."

At least the Mailman can talk about the first quarter. He entered the game for the first time with 1:57 left in the period, replacing starter Shawn Kemp. Stockton didn't make his first appearance - as the last player from either team to enter the game - until there was 4:42 left in the half. By that time, several players were making their second appearance.

Despite that late debut, Stockton ended up playing 18 minutes. Asked if he were surprised to play that much, considering that another point guard, Jason Kidd, was a fan-elected starter while still another point guard, Gary Payton, plays for West coach George Karl in Seattle, Stockton said, "I don't quite know how to answer that. Based on the first half, yes. I guess I didn't really have any expectations."

Malone played 20 minutes, only two less than starter Shawn Kemp, who also plays for Karl.

"I didn't expect to play that much," Malone said.

Interestingly, Malone and Stockton were both on the court when the West team played its best basketball of the night. After a close first half (61-58), the West starters played absolutely zero defense in the early part of the third quarter, getting outscored 29-13 over the first eight minutes.

In the fourth quarter, Malone and Stockton helped lead the West team on a comeback of sorts, outscoring the East 17-6. At that point Karl went with his best defensive squad - the two Jazz players, Payton, Mitch Richmond and Dikembe Mutombo. They whittled the East lead down to nine before the Mailman was replaced by Kemp. A couple minutes later, Stockton left in favor of Kidd.

"Everybody played really hard in that stretch," Stockton said. "I guess showtime was over."

"I like the way we came back," Malone said. "We showed a lot of heart."

Asked if he cared whether the West won or lost, Malone said, "I don't like to lose. I guess I'm not cut out for these All-Star games."

Both Jazz players had shooting problems. Malone made two of six shots but got to the line enough to finish with 11 points, and he grabbed nine rebounds and made some slick passes. Stockton, the league's best-shooting guard, missed all seven of his three-point attempts and scored just four points, with three assists.

The one shot Stockton wanted most was an open three-pointer as the West was making its comeback. It was off a play drawn during a timeout, and it went just as planned, except that he air-balled it.

"I just didn't have my feet all the way under me and I short-armed it," he said. "I felt like the guy shooting for the money yesterday."

Malone now has 137 career All-Star points, putting him in a tie with Dolph Schayes and George Gervin for 14th on the all-time list. He moved past Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone, Rick Barry and Larry Bird.

Malone and Stockton remained in San Antonio, where they will be joined by their teammates on Monday for a practice prior to Tuesday's season-resuming game against the Spurs.