SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—There was no danger of the Utah Jazz looking ahead to Sunday’s game against Karl Malone and the Los Angeles Lakers. They knew beforehand that they won’t be seeing “The Mailman” until late January.
Shortly after learning that Malone would be suspended for his first game against the team he spent 18 seasons with, the Jazz focused completely on the Los Angeles Clippers and rolled to an 86-67 win Friday night.
It was the lowest point total of the season for the Clippers, who got Elton Brand back in the lineup but struggled once again in Utah.
“I thought our team defense was the key tonight,” said Matt Harpring, who led the Jazz with 20 points. “Our guys in the post really helped out. Our team defense frustrates a lot of teams that play against us.”
Utah improved to 10-1 at home and 11-7 on the season and continued to dominate the Clippers, who have won just once in Salt Lake City since the Delta Center opened in 1991.
The Clippers, whose previous season-low was 78 on Nov. 19 at Indiana, shot 35 percent from the field. Quentin Richardson was just 3-for-19.
“I don’t think (the Jazz) are a better team than us, but we didn’t play well,” said Corey Maggette, who led the Clippers with 15 points. “They had good defense, especially help defense.”
Utah heads to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Sunday, but Malone will not be in the building. The NBA announced Friday that Malone had been suspended one game without pay for elbowing Dallas guard Steve Nash in the head on Thursday.
“Yes, I’m disappointed there will be no Karl Malone,” Harpring said. “In the summer, I was looking forward to playing them because I wanted to play against Karl. But we obviously have our hands full even without him, and we’ll get a chance to play him three more times.”
Andrei Kirilenko, who scored 10, was looking forward to going up against Malone.
“I want to see him,” Kirilenko said. “He’s a great player, one of the best all time. I want that matchup. I want to be able to say one day that I played against Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone.”
Utah’s recovered after an overtime loss Wednesday in Houston.
The Clippers activated Brand from the injured list after he missed 13 games with a hairline stress fracture in his right foot. Brand entered the game at the start of the second quarter, scored nine points in the first half and finished with 13.
Bobby Simmons’ basket with 4:50 left in the second quarter pulled the Clippers to 33-29. The Jazz then reeled off a 14-6 run to close out the halfand open a 47-35 lead. Utah extended its lead to 67-49 after three quarters.
Maggette signed an offer sheet from Utah in the offseason, but the Clippers matched it and kept the restricted free agent. … Stevenson scored eight points in the third quarter. … The Jazz won three of four against the Clippers last season. … Utah had not held an opponent below 76 points untilthis game.