Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 12/12

Game 1: Wednesday, December 12th
Game 2: Friday, January 4th
Game 3: Saturday, March 2nd
Game 4: Sunday, March 17th

    Coverage: FSRM

    2:30 PM ET, March 17, 2002

    Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

    1 2 3 4 T
    UTAH 15 24 25 3296
    MIN 19 23 16 3189

    Top Performers

    Utah: K. Malone 27 Pts, 12 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 Blk

    Minnesota: W. Szczerbiak 33 Pts, 1 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

    Malone scores 27 as Wolves lose seventh in a row

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Karl Malone returned after missing his last game due to the flu. The Minnesota Timberwolves should've called in sick.

    Karl Malone

    Utah's Karl Malone goes up against Minnesota's Marc Jackson during his 27-point, 12-rebound performance.

    Malone returned to the Utah lineup Sunday and had 27 points and 12 rebounds, leading the Jazz to a 96-89 victory over Minnesota and extending the Timberwolves' losing streak to seven.

    Malone was back after missing the victory Friday at Detroit -- his first health-related absence since 1989, and he more than made up for his under-the-weather, two-point performance in the game Thursday against Charlotte.

    "I can count the times I felt that bad," said Malone, who lost nine pounds because of the illness. "I didn't even care about basketball."

    John Stockton had 22 points and eight assists for Utah, which broke a five-game losing streak against Minnesota.

    Wally Szczerbiak led the Timberwolves with 33 points, and Anthony Peeler added 17. Szczerbiak and Peeler combined to shoot 19-for-26 from the field, while their teammates shot 11-for-46. Kevin Garnett had 16 points on 3-for-14 shooting.

    "We're trying to help each other, but it's just the little things that cost you games," Szczerbiak said. "The refs don't seem to be giving you calls, and little plays you can make in your sleep, you're not making."

    Malone had his way against Minnesota center Rasho Nesterovic, who guarded him most of the time when the Timberwolves weren't playing a zone defense, and finished 9-for-15 from the floor.

    In his previous five games, Malone shot 24-for-77 (31 percent).

    Because Nesterovic defended Malone well in Minnesota's first three victories over Utah this year, coach Flip Saunders' plan was to use him on Malone in the first half and Garnett in the second.

    "Karl hit some tough shots," Saunders said. "He does that. It's not as though he was making a bunch of easy ones. But the difference was Stockton. He's a phenomenal athlete who can control the game with the things he does."

    Stockton, who turns 40 next week, repeatedly broke down the Timberwolves' guards -- usually Chauncey Billups -- off the dribble.

    "We knew they would go to their stars," Peeler said. "Right now, we're just not stopping anyone. When Stockton drives, everybody needs to help out."

    Minnesota heard more boos from its fans and wasted another game on a crucial homestand. The Timberwolves led 42-39 at halftime but were hardly running smoothly against the Jazz, a team which has been struggling lately.

    Utah, which had lost four in a row before a two-point victory at Detroit on Friday, and leads the Los Angeles Clippers by just two games in the race for the final playoff spot in the West.

    Neither team could put two good possessions together, and the Wolves slowly chipped away. Szczerbiak hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 86-83 with 2:29 left, and another Utah foul gave Minnesota the ball back.

    Malone slapped the ball away from Garnett, though, and Smith was called for goaltending on Stockton's shot at the other end, and the Timberwolves never got closer.

    The Timberwolves were plagued by the same problems, launching shots prematurely and rarely working the ball around or attacking the basket. They were outrebounded 38-31.

    "We're going through a bad stretch," Saunders said. "All we can do is come out the next day and play as hard as we can. What alternative really is there?"

    Game notes

    Saunders said the Timberwolves might be in the market for a backup point guard for Billups off the waiver wire. Terrell Brandon is out for the season with a leg injury. "Right now, we just need a win," Billups said. "If that'll help us, that's cool." ... After giving Gary Trent two starts, Saunders put Joe Smith back into the lineup. Smith scored four points in 20 minutes. ... The Timberwolves had an eight-game losing streak in December 1999. ... Malone has missed eight games in his 17-year career -- four to an injury or illness and four to a league suspension. ... Minnesota missed a chance to sweep its first-ever season series from Utah.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 96 89
    FGM-FGA 34-71 (.479) 30-72 (.417)
    3PM-3PA 2-9 (.222) 4-13 (.308)
    FTM-FTA 26-30 (.867) 25-29 (.862)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 10-38 7-31
    Assists 20 21
    Turnovers 18 16
    Steals 6 7
    Blocks 8 4
    Fast Break Points 4 4
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 24 (0/0) 27 (1/0)

    Top Performers

    Karl Malone Malone
    Points: 27
    Reb: 12
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 3
    Wally Szczerbiak Szczerbiak
    Points: 33
    Reb: 1
    Ast: 2
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0