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Jazz ring up seventh win in eight games

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Houston Rockets' game plan was simple:
Stop Utah's Karl Malone from getting to the free-throw line. The
scheme worked for three quarters.

But Malone found his way to the foul line in the final period,
making eight free throws, as he scored 30 points and led Utah in a
fourth-quarter comeback over Houston Thursday night 83-79.

Malone, who passed Buck Williams for fifth place on the all-time
games-played list with 1,308, also grabbed 10 rebounds and scored
six points in an 11-2 game-ending run for the Jazz.

"Even when they went up by five (77-72), we still felt like we
had a chance and we just needed to go down and make something
happen and we would win," Malone said.

John Stockton, who added 19 points for the Jazz, added, "We
have more confidence coming down the stretch. We are more sure of
what guys are going to do out there."

What Malone did is go to the basket at the end of game, Utah's
seventh win in its last eight games.

"This could have been a game we lost back in November but we
are a different team now. What a difference a couple months
makes," Malone said.

"We were able to do what we set out to do early, that's trying
to neutralize Karl Malone. But you can't keep him down forever,"
said Steve Francis, who scored 27 points for Houston before being
ejected early in the third quarter.

Francis was ejected by referee Joey Crawford when he was hit
with his second technical foul of the game with 9:48 left in the
third and the score tied at 51.

"Technical foul on Francis. He threw an elbow at Stockton,"
Crawford yelled to the scorers' table. Crawford then turned to
Francis and shouted, "Get out of here."

Francis got his first technical in the first quarter after
throwing the ball hard at Malone and DeShawn Stevenson's legs after
a timeout had been called.

Cuttino Mobley, who scored 19 points, helped the Rockets to a
fourth-quarter lead but missed a potential game-tying jumper with
39 seconds remaining.

The Rockets (11-24), who beat New York on Tuesday, haven't won
consecutive games since a three-game streak Nov. 4-8.

Mobley scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers, in a 21-4
run that was punctuated by a dunk by Kelvin Cato, giving Houston a
77-72 lead with 4:35 remaining.

"I'm proud of the way our guys didn't give up," Houston coach
Rudy Tomjanovich said.

Malone, who did not shoot a free throw in the first three
quarters, shot 8-for-10 from the line in the fourth. He also hit a
baseline jumper that tied the game at 77.

"It is all dependent on confidence, and we have that now,"
Malone said.

Houston tied a season low by scoring just nine points in the
third quarter. The Jazz capitalized as Malone scored 10 points in
the period, building a 66-58 lead by the end of the quarter.

Houston made nine 3-pointers in the first half, matching a
record by a Utah opponent. The Rockets overcame an early 10-point
deficit to lead 49 45 at halftime.

Overall, Houston made 13 3-pointers and just 14 2-pointers. The
Rockets shot 14-for-41 from 2-point range.

"They made their shots. They made bunch of 3s and really hurt
us from deep," Stockton said.

Utah ran its winning streak against Houston to 10 straight in
Salt Lake City. The Jazz have won 16 of 18 overall against the
Rockets.

Game notes
Malone and Kevin Willis banged heads midway through the
second half. Malone had a cut above his right eye that required
three stitches and returned just before halftime. ... Donyell
Marshall bruised his right hip going for a block in the third
quarter. He did not return. ... John Stockton was responsible for
18 of Utah's first 20 points with eight points and five assists in
the opening 8:22. ... Cuttino Mobley wore his white headband around
his neck for the first seven minutes of the game before someone on
the Houston bench shouted that he might get hurt. Mobley came out
for the second half inbounds play unaware he was still wearing his
warmup pants. ... Houston is 10-8 in games Francis has played and
1-16 in games without him.

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