DALLAS — To those who know Shawn Bradley, his performance in Game 3 against the Utah Jazz was no surprise. He has whipped the Jazz into submission dozens of times before — in his backyard while growing up in Castle Dale, Utah.
But the pursuit of a real NBA championship, against the real Jazz, has seemingly sparked Bradley more than anything in his eight-year career. He may not have blocked a single shot Saturday, but Bradley's physical play against Karl Malone and the Jazz was probably as close as he has come to fulfilling hopes he can be a dominant NBA center.
Bradley finished with 10 points, on 4-of-6 shooting, and 10 rebounds. But he helped hold Malone, who finished with 29 points, to 0-for-4 shooting in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks held on for a three-point win, 94-91.
For someone shooting for his first NBA playoff victory, Bradley showed no signs of backing down this time. Moments after being knocked to the ground in the first quarter, Bradley went right at a driving Malone and leveled the two-time league MVP and the player he once idolized.
"If there's a message taken from that, then so be it," Bradley said, shrugging off the importance it had on Dallas taking a 31-22 lead by the end of the quarter. "This is a physical game. Bodies are banging into each other, and things like that happen.
"It's not like I've got a personal vendetta against Karl Malone. I went to his basketball camps as a kid. I've paid him too much money to learn how to play basketball."
Michael Finley said that play gave the rest of the Mavericks confidence that Bradley could handle the paint all game long, which is what the good centers do. The Mavericks were outrebounded only 49-45, and they allowed just six second-chance baskets.
"It was good to see our big man stepping up and letting them know that any layups were going to be tough," Finley said.