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With nine, Malone goes over 5,000 assists

3/19/2003

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah was at home, Karl Malone was in the high post feeding the cutters, and the Jazz were winning again.

After ending a five-game road trip with blowout losses to Indiana and Cleveland, Matt Harpring scored 22 and Malone added 18 while collecting his 5,000th career assist as the Utah Jazz defeated the Denver Nuggets 99-81 Tuesday night.

"Karl is one of the best passing big man in the history of the game and when he's passing like that, we're tough to beat,'' said Calbert Cheaney, who had 12 points.

Malone, who was one rebound shy of his first triple-double since 1999, sat the last 10:20 but still finished with nine assists, six rebounds and five steals.

His pass to Andrei Kirilenko cutting to the basket for a dunk
early in the fourth quarter was the 5,000th assist of his 17-year
career.

"We were embarrassed by Cleveland so we showed more energy tonight and guys tried to earn it,'' Malone said.

The Jazz registered assists on 29 of their 35 field goals.

"We executed really well, got layups, got tremendous shots within the offense and when you do that the game is so much easier,'' Cheaney said.

Shots certainly came easy for Harpring, who was 9-of-11 -- including three 3-pointers -- as Utah led by double digits for
almost all of the final three quarters.

"We had lost opportunities the last couple of games because of
our offense. Tonight, I thought we set much better screens and
tried to defend a little better,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.

Juwan Howard led Denver with 16 points, Rodney White scored 12 and Nene Hilario also had 12 before fouling out late in the game.

"We played hard but we need to combine playing hard with
playing efficiently and executing under duress, when people are
physical and up into you,'' Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said.

The Jazz claimed their 14th straight home victory over the
Nuggets and have won 19 of their last 20 against Denver in Salt
Lake City. The Jazz swept the season series for the first time
since 1997-98.

The Jazz beat the Nuggets 92-82 on Feb. 22, but had gone 4-7
since. They played just two games at the Delta Center during the
streak but play four of their next five at home as they try to
solidify a playoff spot.

Utah rebounded from Sunday's 122-95 defeat in Cleveland, when
the Jazz allowed the league's worst team to shoot 62 percent from
the field.

Against Denver, the team with the second-worst record in the
NBA, Utah shot 52.2 percent -- just the second time in the last 14
games the team has made more than half its shots.

The Nuggets, who were playing their first of three road games in
four nights, committed 24 turnovers in the sloppy game as the Jazz
had 22 miscues of their own.

Denver trailed 13-0 and didn't score until Hilario had a
three-point play with 7:13 left in the first quarter. The Jazz ran
their lead to 50-29 after Malone's steal and assist to Tony
Massenburg, but Utah committed four of its 14 first-half turnovers
in the last 2:21 and Denver closed to 52-38 at halftime.

Game notes
Stricter security measures caused about half the crowd of
17,651 to miss the opening tip as lines stretched out of the arena
to the street. ... Referee Derek Richardson called two technical
fouls on Donnell Harvey, the second when Harvey was on the bench.
Harvey vehemently protested both calls, yelling that he said
nothing objectionable, but was ejected with 4:08 left in the first
half.