As he does once or twice a season, Karl Malone reached another scoring milestone Wednesday.
And he did it despite an off-shooting night in an otherwise forgettable and messy midseason victory over the NBA's worst team, the Chicago Bulls, 90-78 at the Delta Center.
With 1:27 left in the contest, Malone was fouled by Marcus Fizer. He missed the first free throw but made the second, giving him a team-high 18 points for the night and 34,000 points for his career.
Utah's Andrei Kirilenko was impressed by the sheer numbers involved in Malone's accomplishment. "It's crazy," he said. "He's a very great player, and I hope he gets 40,000."
Malone appreciated the sentiment, but after some quick calculation said, "I probably won't. That's a lot more years than I want to play. I've got them in me, but I don't know if I want to play."
(So you don't have to break out the calculator, it would take Malone at least three more seasons to reach 40,000.)
"Milestones, I kind of like to get them over with so you can think about playing the game of basketball," Malone said. "But that's a lot of points."
Malone is now second on the NBA's career scoring list, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 38,387. If he keeps up his current scoring pace, he could pass Abdul-Jabbar late in the 2003-04 season.
For now, Malone said he's happy to still have a job.
"I don't know what else I'd be doing," he said. "You can only hunt so much, fish so much, drop the kids off so much at school. So I choose to work, and it pays pretty decent, too."
It does, though there were a few players on each side who did little to earn their pay Wednesday. In a game Jazz coach Jerry Sloan described as "sloppy," the teams combined for 42 turnovers.
The Jazz recorded a season-high 16 steals, while the Bulls had 14, but those numbers were more a reflection of slipshod passing than of active defenders.
"It looked like we were just trying to get it over with," Sloan said.
Sloan actually sounded more understanding of the Bulls' lack of enthusiasm than of his team's.
"They played last night, they were a little tired," he said of Chicago, which lost a close one Tuesday night in Phoenix. "I didn't expect our guys to look as tired as they did, but they seemed to not have a great deal of energy."
What probably happened is the Jazz had a hard time taking Chicago seriously. Even hovering around the .500 mark (now 24-22), Utah is a much better team than the perennially rebuilding Bulls.
Chicago, meanwhile, may have been tired but more often looked simply frustrated. For the second game in a row, Utah enjoyed a sizable free-throw advantage — this time 36-18.
Fizer and starting center Brad Miller — who went scoreless — garnered technicals, and Eddy Curry, one of two Bulls in high school last year at this time, committed a couple hard fouls, on Kirilenko and Russell, the latter one deemed worthy of a flagrant. Tyson Chandler, the other recent high-schooler, gave a well-known single-digit salute to Jazz fans who were on his case.
(Curry, incidentally, appears to be taking cheap-shot lessons from Charles Oakley.)
"We do get frustrated at times, but you've got to overcome that," said Bulls forward Eddie Robinson. "You can get frustrated, but don't get so frustrated that it takes you out of your game."
Assuming you have a game.
The win was Utah's ninth straight over Chicago in the regular season. The Bulls' last win in the series was Jan. 6, 1997, at the United Center.