Monday , Mar , 29 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Mailman delivers on Sunday: Malone leads Lakers past former team

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant poured in 34 points and Karl
Malone added 19 points and 13 rebounds against his former team, as the Los
Angeles Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz, 91-84, at the Staples Center.

Gary Payton chipped in 17 points and Shaquille O’Neal contributed 11 points
and 14 boards for the Lakers, who have won eight straight games.

Los Angeles remained two games behind the Kings for the top spot in the
Western Conference. Sacramento defeated Washington earlier on Sunday.

Malone faced his former team for the first time after spending the first 18
years of his illustrious career in Utah.

“It is somewhat bittersweet because you are playing against guys you really
like,” said Malone.

The 40-year-old Malone, who signed as a free agent in Los Angeles this past
summer, missed the Lakers’ first three games against Utah this season. He sat
out the first meeting because of a suspension and missed the next two contests
because of a right knee injury that caused him to be sidelined for 41 games
this year.

“He’s (Malone) a terrific guy and did a great job for our organization,” said
Utah head coach Jerry Sloan, who celebrated his 62nd birthday Sunday. “We had
a terrific relationship all these years. I don’t know of anybody who’s played
any harder.”

Raja Bell had 26 points and Raul Lopez scored 12 for the Jazz, who lost for
only the second time in their last six games.

The setback dropped Utah into a tie with Portland for eighth place in the
West.

The Lakers led by five at halftime and held a 46-42 edge early in the third.
However, they then used a 9-0 burst, capped by Rick Fox’s three-pointer, to
extend their advantage to 55-42 with around 6 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.
Los Angeles stretched the cushion to as many as 16 points in the frame on a
Payton basket and led 69-55 after 36 minutes.

Utah began the fourth by scoring the first eight points, highlighted by five
from Bell, to pull within 69-63. Bell’s bucket less than two minutes into the
final period capped the 10-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters.

The Jazz fought back and eventually tied the game at 75 apiece on Bell’s
basket with 5:42 left. Utah then claimed a 79-77 advantage on two Bell free
throws with 4:29 remaining, but Payton quickly tied the game by knocking down
a pair from the charity stripe.

Payton gave Los Angeles a two-point lead as he made two foul shots with 2:42
left and Bryant extended the advantage to 83-79 moments later.

After a turnover, Bryant’s jump shot with 1:04 left capped an 8-0 run and gave
the Lakers a six-point edge. The Jazz were never able to seriously threaten
again.

“It was a tough win for us,” said Bryant. “They really fought us hard, played
us hard. It was a physical game, but we managed to make the right push at the
right time.”

The Lakers led 22-20 after a tightly-contested first quarter, but the Jazz
rallied to claim a 35-29 lead on Lopez’s three-pointer with just under five
minutes remaining in the half.

Trailing 37-31 minutes later, Los Angeles ended the second period on a 12-1
surge, keyed by five from Payton and four from Malone, to seize a 43-38
halftime lead.

Bryant had 12 points, while Jarron Collins scored eight in the opening 24
minutes.

LAL UTA