SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- No Kobe, no Karl and, in the end, no Shaq
meant no luck for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Karl Malone's return to Utah for the first time as an opponent
was spoiled when the Jazz beat the Lakers 88-83 on Monday night.
The game will be remembered as much for Malone's homecoming to
Utah, where he played his first 18 seasons, as Shaquille O'Neal's
two quick technical fouls that got him ejected in the fourth
quarter and started a rally by the Jazz for the victory.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson tried to refrain from commenting, but
then accused referee Bob Delaney of being prejudiced against
"We just felt it wasn't fair-square," Jackson said. "It felt
like we were going against eight people instead of five."
The Lakers may have felt that outnumbered when the game ended.
Malone is still on the injured list with a bad knee and was joined
on the Lakers bench by Kobe Bryant (shoulder) and Horace Grant (hip
flexor). Forward Stanislav Medvedenko (respiratory infection)
wasn't even with the team.
Gary Payton had 21 points to lead Los Angeles and O'Neal had 16
points and 10 rebounds, but the Lakers never recovered after losing
Shaq in the middle.
"I think, first of all, you have to have a little luck, because
obviously when O'Neal went out of the ballgame that sort of turned
things around," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "You know we need to
get a win any way we can against anyone we play. It's important for
us to keep hanging in there and see if we can stay alive in this
The Jazz got back to .500 at 32-32 and are within a game of
Denver for the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference. Utah
also finally got its first home game against Malone as a member of
the Lakers out of the way, even if he didn't play.
Malone, not mentioned over the public address system during the
game, received both cheers and jeers in his first game as a visitor
in the Delta Center. But in the end most of the sellout crowd of
19,911 was celebrating the Jazz's first victory over the Lakers
since December 2002.
The Lakers led 70-68 and O'Neal scooped up a loose ball and
shook the rim on a one-handed dunk with 3:57 remaining. But he came
down with an elbow on Andrei Kirilenko and was immediately tossed
O'Neal received a technical earlier in the quarter for taunting
after a dunk.
"Bob Delaney's known to be very prejudiced against Shaquille.
We know that, so we wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't a good
call," Jackson said. "But I'm not going to make a comment on that
Kirilenko had 15 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks and the
Jazz reserves outscored the Lakers' 64-25. Raul Lopez scored 17 and
had five assists, and Raja Bell scored 13 and Gordan Giricek led
the team with his 21 points.
The Lakers play the Jazz again March 28, and Malone is expected
to be back by then. But the game is in Los Angeles, and probably
won't have the same frenzied atmosphere of Malone coming back to
Utah. Jazz owner Larry Miller rekindled a lengthy feud last week by
criticizing Malone's outrage over a Jazz skit that poked fun at
Malone and Bryant in the Lakers' last visit to Utah.
Malone spoke to some of his former teammates and coaches after
the game but did not take questions from reporters. He said before
the game that the Jan. 24 skit is old news.
"I love my new life. That's what I'm saying. That's why I don't
know what all the fuss is about," he said after the morning
shootaround. "I'm happy. The Jazz are happy. They're winning. I
keep up with them. Why can't both sides be happy and get along?"
The Lakers were without forward Stanislav Medvedenko
(respiratory infection), Kobe Bryant (shoulder) and Horace Grant
(hip flexor) in addition to Malone, who is not on the active
roster. ... Giricek was back for Utah after missing two games to be
with his wife for the birth of their daughter. ... The loudest
cheer of the night before O'Neal's ejection was when he was called
for throwing an elbow while going for an offensive rebound with
10.6 seconds left in the first quarter.