SALT LAKE CITY (TICKER) —Karl Malone is not ready to let go of his position as one of the NBA’s best power forwards.
Although he may be the best power forward of all-time, Malone has been overshadowed in recent seasons by stars like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Chris Webber. But Malone remains a consistent performer in his 18th season and outplayed Garnett down the stretch in this one.
Malone made 10-of-14 shots from the floor and 8-of-9 free throws as Utah shot 59 percent (42-of-71)from the floor, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range, and made 21-of-24 from the line.
“It’s a great win for us, these guys are playing really well,” Malone said. “When you can beat someone in your division, it’s a great win. Everyone played well down the stretch.”
“They are all good wins now,” Stockton said. “We’re in a tough battle with it seems like everybody.”
“(Stockton and Malone) are legends and they prove it night in and night out,” Garnett said. “That’s why they get the accolades. They are still taking it to the best of them.”
The Jazz had a 91-90 edge before Malone converted a three-point play with 5:48 remaining to spark a 14-3 run. Harpring had a layup and Stockton followed with a basket for a 98-90 edge with 4:13 to go.
After Garnett made 1-of-2 free throws, Stockton and Greg Ostertag each sank a pair for a 102-91 cushion. Garnett had a follow dunk with 2:35 left, but the Jazz put away the game with five straight points.
Malone sank three free throws and won a jump ball against Garnett in the final 89 seconds as Utah won for the fourth time in five games.
Garnett finished with 34 points, 10 rebounds and six assists but managed just three points in the final five minutes as Minnesota lost for the 24th time in 30 visits to the Delta Center.
Minnesota closed the first quarter with a 16-4 burst, taking a 31-20 lead. Garnett buried a jumper from the top of the key to close the period for the Timberwolves, who made 13-of-23 shots in the opening 12 minutes.
“You can’t play a soft game against a team like this,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “If you kind of waller through it like an exhibition game, you don’t have much of a chance. I thought we did play kind of like an exhibition in what I thought was an important game.”
Minnesota had a 59-49 edge just 61 seconds into the third quarter, but Utah responded with a 22-12 spurt. Malone scored eight straight points during the stretch and Harpring capped it with a pair of free throws, forging a 71-71 tie with 4:02 remaining.
“They came out and played extremely physical, and we lost our concentration,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said.