Jazz 88, Lakers 83
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—Karl Malone was back in Utah and the Jazz won at home.
It was almost just like old times, except Malone didn’t play and if he had, it would have been for a Utah opponent for the first time ever.
Malone received both cheers and jeers in his first game as a visitor in the Delta Center, but in the end most of the sellout crowd of 19,911 was celebrating the Jazz victory, aided greatly when Shaquille O’Neal was ejected with two quick technical fouls in the fourth quarter.
“I think first of all you have to have a little luck, because obviously when O’Neal went out of the ballgame that sort of turned things around,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
The short-handed Lakers, who had won five straight over Utah, never recovered after O’Neal was thrown out. Los Angeles led 72-68 at the time, but the Jazz scored 20 points in the final 3:57 to end a five-game losing streak against the Lakers.
Malone, who is on the injured list with a bad knee, made the trip but was not activated for the game. He sat in street clothes at the end of the bench, enduring a few taunts and nasty signs written for his decision to leave as a free agent and try to win a championship with the Lakers.
Fans had signs that compared Malone to Judas and Benedict Arnold, while others thanked him for his 18 seasons with the Jazz.
Malone spoke to some of his former teammates and coaches after the game, but did not answer questions from reporters. He stuck around for nearly an hour, signing autographs, posing for pictures and greeting old friends.
Kirilenko, a teammate of Malone for two seasons, said the reception was positive, as it should have been.
“He is a big-time man for the Jazz,” Kirilenko said.
By beating the Lakers, the Jazz got back to .500 at 32-32 and are within a game of Denver for the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“Even though we’re not in the playoff race right now, we’re dangerous because we’re fighting to get in,” said Raja Bell, one of three Jazz reserves to score in double figures. “Some of these teams are already in. If your concentration isn’t there, we might get you.”
The Jazz reserves outscored the Lakers’ 64-25. Raul Lopez scored 17 and had five assists, and Bell scored 13 and Giricek led the team with his 21 points.
Gary Payton led the Lakers with 21 points, scoring 10 in the third quarter before the Lakers’ late meltdown after O’Neal was sent to the locker room.
The Lakers led 70-68 and O’Neal scooped up a loose ball and shook the rim on a one-handed dunk with 3:57 remaining. But he came down with an elbow on Kirilenko and was immediately tossed by referee Bob Delaney, who shook his head as O’Neal protested the call while being restrained by his teammates.
O’Neal, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds, had received a technical earlier in the quarter for taunting after a dunk. Without Shaq in the middle, the Jazz were able to regain control and hold on for their first win over the Lakers since December 2002.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he hadn’t seen the replay of O’Neal’s second technical.
“Bob Delaney’s known to be very prejudiced against Shaquille. We know that, so we wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t a good call,” Jackson said. “But I’m not going to make a comment on that right now.”
Greg Ostertag, who had seven points and 10 rebounds, cut the lead to 72-71 on two free throws, Giricek gave the Jazz the lead with a jumper and Kirilenko helped Utah pull away with a 3-pointer. Utah never trailed again, although the Lakers did keep it close down the stretch.
: The Lakers were without forward Stanislav Medvedenko (respiratory infection), Kobe Bryant (shoulder) and Horace Grant (hip flexor) in addition to Malone, who is not on the active roster. … Giricek was back for Utah after missing two games to be with his wife for the birth of their daughter. … The loudest cheer of the night before O’Neal’s ejection was when he was called for throwing an elbow while going for an offensive rebound with 10.6 seconds leftin the first quarter.