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Jazz extend Denver's losing streak in Salt Lake City

1/16/2002

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Things aren't as bad as they seemed
earlier this season for the Utah Jazz.

The Denver Nuggets? Don't ask.

Karl Malone scored 17 of his 26 points in the second half and
Bryon Russell added 17 in a reserve role as Utah beat Denver 106-97
Monday night.

John Stockton had 14 points as the Jazz won for the eighth time
in their last 10 games and extended Denver's road losing streak to
12 games. The Nuggets also have lost 11 straight, dating to 1995,
in Salt Lake City.

Utah opened the season with its worst start in 19 years, but the
Jazz have stabilized as young players like Andrei Kirilenko and
Jarron Collins worked their way into coach Jerry Sloan's system.

"There's always room for improvement, but this team has a lot
of potential to get better as time goes on," Stockton said.
"Those young guys are getting better and better. That's
exciting."

John Starks even dropped a comment about the playoffs.

"You have to keep an eye on the playoffs," Starks said. "You
have to believe you're going to make it. If you have any doubts,
you're not going to make it. Everybody in here believes that."

Nick Van Exel led Denver with 26 points while rookie Chris
Andersen had a career-high 17 points and nine rebounds. But after
cutting a 12-point halftime deficit to 78-73 early in the fourth
quarter, Denver couldn't take over.

"We just came up short," reserve point guard Avery Johnson
said. "Right now, we still have a lot of things to work on before
we can really talk about winning on the road."

One bright spot was Andersen, who was called up from the NBDL in
November. He came in averaging two minutes a game but played 22.

"I wasn't expecting this many minutes, but they gave it to me
so I took it," Andersen said. "I just needed one more rebound for
a double-double, so I feel like I can contribute."

John Crotty added 12 points for the Jazz, who rebounded from a
disappointing double-overtime homecourt loss to Memphis on
Saturday.

"The outcome of the ball game wasn't the same, but I thought we
played better the other night," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.

Denver has lost eight of its last nine and is struggling without
All-Star forward Antonio McDyess, out with a torn patella tendon,
and Tariq Abdul-Wahad, out after arthroscopic surgery on his left
knee.

It didn't help the Nuggets' cause that forward Scott Williams
didn't suit up after straining his back Saturday against Houston
and forward George McCloud missed his third straight game with a
strained right calf.

"They didn't have all their people here," Sloan said. "It was
a game you should win and continue to improve. You've got to play
intelligently and we were just kind of haphazard out there at
times."

The Nuggets trailed 56-44 at halftime but cut it to 64-61 with
4:40 to play in the third after Andersen's two free throws capped
an 8-0 run. But the Jazz quickly regained control with an 11-2
burst.

Van Exel scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to
trim Denver's deficit to 78-73 with 11:04 to play. Despite several
charges in the last six minutes, the Nuggets couldn't get any
closer.

Game notes
Utah rookie F Andrei Kirilenko started in place of Donyell
Marshall, who missed his second straight game with a bruised right
hip. Kirilenko scored all of his eight points in the first quarter.
... With 1:33 remaining in the first quarter, Malone attempted the
12,000th free throw of his 17-year career. He missed that one, but
finished 6-of-8 from the stripe. He was 10-of-18 from the floor.