Jazz 94, Nuggets 89Karl Malone, the best power forward in the 1990s and probably in NBA history, was battered and bruised Thursday night in the Delta Center but still managed to post all-star numbers.
But the heir apparent as the top power forward of 2000 and beyond -- Antonio McDyess of the Denver Nuggets -- was even better.
In the end, however, the cagey veteran came up with a big play against the upstart star, allowing the Utah Jazz to escape with a 94-89 victory.
McDyess, who already had 39 points, was looking for three more in the final 10 seconds. But Malone stripped him clean before he was able to go up for a potential game-tying trey. The Mailman was then fouled with 6.1 seconds left, scoring his 27th and 28th points of the game from the free throw line to provide the final margin of victory.
"Everything else was falling for him so I knew he'd try a three," said Malone of the game-deciding play. "I just tried to get up and bother him."
The Jazz, now 15-4 on the year, left shortly after the game for Portland where they will face the 15-3 Trail Blazers tonight in the Rose Garden. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. It will be Utah's second out- ing of a three-games-in-three-nights stretch. The Jazz host Minnesota on Saturday night.
"(Portland) beat us up there last time, but we're going up there with the attitude that we're going to win a game," said Malone.
Denver, meanwhile, nearly stole one away from the Jazz on Thursday. Utah led virtually the entire way and was up by as many as 15 points in the second half. But the Nuggets kept plugging away with McDyess leading the charge.
A McDyess 14-footer with 63 seconds left pulled Denver to within one, 90-89. After a Jeff Hornacek miss, the Nuggets had a chance to take their first lead since the first quarter. A play was set up for -- who else? -- McDyess, but he couldn't get a shot away, and Utah's Thurl Bailey knocked the ball out of bounds with 21 seconds remaining and four seconds on the shot clock. Denver's Bryant Stith then got off an open 3-pointer with 17 seconds left that went in-and-out, but wouldn't fall.
John Stockton was fouled two seconds later and he made both free throws. Denver had one last chance, but Malone squelched it by stealing the ball away from McDyess.
"I kind of messed up on the last two plays," McDyess admitted.
He did little else wrong, however. He made 17 of his 26 shots from the field, 5 of 7 free throws and pulled down 11 rebounds with three assists.
"It's hard to contain (McDyess) one on one," said Bailey. "You've got to get help from your teammates."
Malone left the game late in the second quarter with strained quadriceps in his right leg. It didn't look like he would return -- but he insisted. The Mailman scored 16 of his 28 points and pulled down seven of his 10 boards in the second half after sustaining the injury.
"You look at Karl Malone and see what he did tonight," said Jazz assistant coach Phil Johnson. "It's truly amazing . . . He hurt himself in the first half and just wanted to try it in the second half. I've been around him a long time and he just didn't want to come out. Hopefully it's not serious."
Johnson, for the third time in four games, had the head coaching duties. This time it had nothing to do with Jerry Sloan's recent knee surgery, however. Sloan was on the bench to start the game but was ejected after getting hit with two quick technicals late in the first quarter by referee Steve Javy. Johnson had to take over from there.
After a tight first quarter, the Jazz pulled away a bit in the second. Bailey netted nine of his 11 points in the period as Utah out-scored Denver by 11. Utah still led by 11 entering the final quarter before McDyess led a Nuggets' rally.
Denver, which has yet to win a road game (0-11), fell to 5-15 on the year.
"If we keep playing like this, with this kind of effort, I would think we're going to get some wins," said Denver coach Mike D'Antoni.
With a player the caliber of McDyess on his side, it's inevitable.