SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Karl Malone and John Stockton were as
steady as ever, yet it was two rookies for the Utah Jazz who
spoiled Shaquille O'Neal's birthday and Kobe Bryant's return from a
Malone scored 23 points and Stockton added 19 on 7-for-12
shooting as the Jazz beat the Los Angeles Lakers 92-84 Wednesday
Andrei Kirilenko and Jarron Collins, newcomers on a Jazz team
known for veteran stars, contributed with defense. Collins played
well in his first start against O'Neal and Kirilenko held Bryant to
three second-half points.
"It's hard to guard them," said Kirilenko, the rookie from
Russia who scored 11 points and blocked four shots. "Today, I catch my
game in defense, and I stopped Kobe, but I think the next game in
L.A. will be much harder."
Malone, who has made seven 3-pointers this season, ended the
Lakers' three-game winning streak by hitting a rare 3-pointer with
2½ minutes left. The Jazz improved to 2-12 against the top five
teams in the Western Conference.
"We haven't had any success against the elite teams," Stockton
said. "It was just nice to get one."
O'Neal had 28 points and 12 rebounds while Bryant scored 26. But
Kirilenko's long arms kept Bryant in check after halftime and the
Lakers, whose 12.4 turnover average is the league's second-lowest,
committed a season-high 24.
"When you read the stats, you can see we had 24 turnovers and
gave up sixty-some points on turnovers and free throws," said
Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "I'm surprised it got as close as it
did at the end."
Utah trailed 47-44 at halftime but, aided by six Lakers
turnovers in the third quarter, methodically took control.
"They got after loose balls, hit more shots, hit a lot more
free throws," said O'Neal, who turned 30. "They just got out
there. We had a lot of turnovers, especially in the first half,
that kept them in the game."
Collins didn't seem rattled against O'Neal, hitting his first
"I wasn't intimidated," said Collins, who scored 10. "I was
looking forward to the matchup. You play this game to play the
best, and he's the best."
Three minutes into the fourth quarter, Malone made a steal at
Los Angeles' free throw line, broke away from Rick Fox's intentional hold
and thundered downcourt for a dunk that gave the Jazz a 77-64 lead.
The Lakers answered with Derek Fisher hitting two 3-pointers and
a jumper during a 12-5 burst that forced a Utah timeout with 5:56
on the clock. Los Angeles cut it to 84-80 on Fisher's two free throws with
2:47 to go before Malone's 3-pointer ended the run.
"We had our opportunities," Bryant said. "It didn't help that
Malone hit that 3-pointer."
Bryant returned from a two-game suspension for fighting with
Indiana's Reggie Miller. He came out hot, capping the first half
with a 30-footer at the buzzer and tapping the Jazz logo at
midcourt three times.
He had his left thumb taped at halftime after a collision with
Stockton, but the injury wasn't considered serious.
"It hurts, but it won't stop me from playing," Bryant said.
From tipoff, Utah looked determined to prove its critics
wrong. Stockton, who turns 40 later this month, made Lindsey Hunter
look silly when he scored 10 of Utah's first 14 points on wide-open
Kirilenko, meanwhile, brought fans to their feet by swatting one
of O'Neal's shots early.
"He did a good job," Bryant said. "He's athletic. He's quick.
Fans throughout the arena held up signs saying, "Happy
Birthday Shaq." ... Stockton played in his 1,400th game, Donyell
Marshall in his 500th. ... In the first quarter, Stockton was
5-for-5 and Collins 3-for-3. The rest of the Jazz lineup went
0-for-12. ... Brigham Young football coach Gary Crowton had a front-row seat
near midcourt. ... Salt Lake City resident Tristan Gale, gold
medalist in women's skeleton at the Winter Olympics last month, slid
down the lower bowl steps on a plastic sled before the fourth
quarter. ... It was Greg Ostertag's birthday, too. The Jazz center