Karl Malone looked at the statistics sheet and groaned.
"Forty-eight minutes," he said. "I can't believe I played 48 minutes. I ain't never played a whole game in my life."
They were the biggest 48 minutes in Malone's career. Malone, Utah's All-Star forward, scored a game-high 29 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Jazz knocked off the Lakers, 96-89, in Game 3 of their National Basketball Assn. Western Conference semifinal playoff series.
Larry Miller, the Jazz owner, came over to Malone's cubicle in the dressing room to congratulate him.
"After we beat the Lakers the other night at the Forum, I said it was the biggest win ever for us," Miller said. "But I'd have to say that tonight was the biggest win for us."
After Utah beat the Lakers, 101-97, in Game 2 Tuesday night at the Forum, Malone had said it was the most important win in team history.
"I hate to keep saying it over and over, but this was the biggest win for the Jazz franchise," Malone said. "I never thought we'd be up, 2-1. I thought it was going to be a (Laker) sweep.
"This was the biggest game of my career. We played awesome tonight.
"But we can't relax Sunday. They're the world champions and they play better on CBS (which will televise Sunday's game here). I can't believe we've got a sellout on Sunday in Salt Lake.
"We can't celebrate. If we go back to L.A. with a 3-1 lead, it will be a tremendous advantage in our favor."
Malone also did a good job of playing defense as the Jazz took Laker forward James Worthy out of the game with just nine points.
"I don't know if we did anything different to take Worthy out of the game," Malone said. "We just did a good job of playing defense as a team."
Malone wasn't the only hero for the surprising Jazz, which has won two straight after losing the opener by 19 points last Sunday at the Forum.
Mark Eaton, who frustrated the Lakers with seven blocks in Game 2, had another big game. Eaton, the Jazz's 7-foot 4-inch center, scored 10 points, hauled down 14 rebounds and blocked 6 shots.
Eaton, matched against Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, won the battle of the former UCLA centers.
Eaton, who limited Abdul-Jabbar to 10 points in Game 2, held Abdul-Jabbar to just 6 points this time. Abdul-Jabbar, who made only 3 of 13 shots in Game 2, shot poorly once again, hitting 3 of 14 shots.
"Mark was the difference tonight," Malone said of Eaton.
Said Eaton: "I think (Abdul-Jabbar) is having trouble with the timing on his skyhook. I'll take some of the credit, but I'm a little worried because he's the greatest scorer of all time. He'll break out of this and terrorize us.
"I just hope he doesn't do it Sunday. I've seen a lot of hook shots go over my head the past six years."
Guard John Stockton, the NBA assist champion, also had another impressive outing. Stockton scored 22 points, handed out 12 assists and had 5 steals and 4 rebounds.
Stockton came up with some big plays down the stretch as the Jazz held off a late Laker comeback.
With Utah clinging to a 92-88 lead, Stockton hit a free throw after he was fouled by James Worthy with 28 seconds left.
After Malone sank a free throw with 22 seconds remaining, Stockton came up with the rebound to seal the win.
"Stockton had a great game; he was terrific," Eaton said. "He was all over the floor tonight. "I can remember the one steal where he came around and stripped Magic of the ball."
Said Jazz Coach Frank Layden: "Stockton is a great little player. He's all heart. He played right up to the end and he didn't quit. The whole team, in fact, played with heart. They didn't quit."