Sunday, June 6, 2004 Updated: June 8, 4:20 AM ET
Malone: 'I didn't help the guys out at all'
By Joe Lago ESPN.com
LOS ANGELES -- In a Los Angeles Lakers locker room where there was plenty of blame to go around, Karl Malone singled himself out as the main reason for Sunday's 87-75 loss to the Detroit Pistons.
It was the least he could do, the Lakers' starting power forward reasoned, since he missed seven of his nine shots and managed to score only four points.
"I had open looks. I just got us out of rhythm as a team," said Malone, who was as critical of his defense on Rasheed Wallace as his woeful offensive effort. "I was very disappointed in myself because I didn't help the guys out at all."
Malone's 44 minutes in his first NBA Finals appearance since The Shot -- the one Michael Jordan made in 1998 against Malone's Jazz -- weren't a complete waste. He grabbed 11 rebounds and had three assists and one blocked shot.
On a night when Kobe Bryant couldn't shoot straight against the long-limbed Tayshaun Prince and when the L.A. bench was outscored 19-4, the Lakers could've used a third source of offense to go with Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant.
"I have to be a part of that," Malone said. "I have to make those shots. I have to bring more out on the defensive end."
"[Bleep], four points? That's terrible. My little boy can do that."
Malone had missed all three of his shots in the first quarter and was 0-for-4 from the field when O'Neal tried to get The Mailman going by passing up a shot in the lane to get the ball to Malone for a wide-open jumper. Malone missed that shot, too, and did not score in the first half.
Malone finally made his first field goal of the night on his seventh attempt, a layup off a Bryant feed with 4:25 left in the third quarter with the Lakers trailing 56-50.
"You have to respect what Karl is saying as a teammate and as a player [but] I know that's not the truth," Derek Fisher said. "It still takes quite a bit of character to step up and say that.
"A number of us tonight didn't get things going offensively and didn't help our team tonight," added Fisher, who shot 1-for-9 and scored only two points. "It's a team game and teams win together and lose together, but there are nights like tonight where certain individuals do not play well. And tonight was one of those nights for myself and Karl."
Throw in Gary Payton, too. He was 1-for-4 with three points and did very little to stop Chauncey Billups from scoring a Pistons-high 22 points.
But if you're looking for a scapegoat, point the finger at No. 11. He doesn't mind.
"I think it starts with me. I really do," Malone said. "And as I've said before, when I bring the energy, when I'm doing the things I'm supposed to be doing on the defensive end, I think they feed off of me. I didn't do that tonight."
Joe Lago is the NBA editor for ESPN.com.