If you want to know the definition of a bad day, Sam Perkins had one Friday. He came down with flu in the morning and a bad case of Karl Malone in the evening.
The Mailman scored 27 points against Perkins and several successors and the Utah Jazz went on to trounce the Lakers, 101-79, ending their winning streak at eight games.
The rest of the Lakers had their own problems, namely the hard game at Minneapolis the night before while the Jazz rested at home. The Lakers had two of these in their streak, the victories over Golden State and San Antonio, but Friday was their night to arrive feet first, the schedule’s gift to the home team.
“You’re hoping things get going good from the beginning,” Coach Mike Dunleavy said. “Then you can go to your bench, buy some time. If you can buy some time, you have a chance to keep it close, come back in with your starters and win the game.”
Time was not for sale to the Lakers Friday.
They began getting the bad news in the morning, when Perkins reported he was ill. Mychal Thompson had come down with flu a week ago. Team publicist John Black got it in Minnesota and was promptly sent home, in the hope it would get no further.
Perkins passed up the day’s shoot-around but told Dunleavy in the evening he would play.
Dunleavy, noting the presence of playmaker John Stockton and several shooters, didn’t want to double-team Malone. The hope was that the Mailman would miss some shots early and the ball would move elsewhere.
Imagine the delight of all concerned in the Laker party when the first time Malone touched the ball, he took it out to the corner, shot a 20-footer and swished it.
After that, Malone went inside with his usual vengeance and scored five more points as Utah took an 11-2 lead. He drew two fouls on Perkins in the first 4:17, forcing the Laker starter to the bench, and then scored six more points against Mychal Thompson in the first quarter.
“To play a guy like Karl Malone, you’ve got to feel really good,” Dunleavy said. “By the end of the night, healthy or not, you’re not going to feel good.”
This particular Mailman goes 6-foot-9, 256 pounds and may be the hardest player to push out of the low post in the league. He was digging in on Perkins, unaware that Sam was sick.
“Hey, it’s one of those things,” Malone said. “If you can suit up, we assume you can play. In this business, you can’t feel sorry for anybody, or they’ll take advantage of you.
“He was sick? I hope he gets well.”
This is no place for the faint of heart. When the Jazz got off to a 2-4 start, Malone punctuated a loss at Boston by declaring that the Jazz has a bench of players “who don’t belong in the league.”
On the plus side, he said they were “nice guys who don’t win.”
He called for a shakeup, even if he was the one who had to be traded.
“I was worried about the club,” Malone said. “The season could have gone south on us.
“You take a chance. You take a chance and say something. You take a chance about what your teammates think of you as a person.”
Since, the Jazz is 9-3.
Rocked early, the Lakers pulled to 25-23 at the end of the first quarter. But the Jazz scored on 12 of its last 16 possessions of the half, making five layups in that span and on two occasions when it missed shots, Malone scored on rebounds.
It was 52-39 at halftime and the Lakers were never again closer than 11. Dunleavy chased the Jazz into the dying minutes, keeping Magic Johnson and James Worthy on the floor until the last 1:17, but by then it had been over for an hour.
“Even when it was 25-23, it wasn’t snapping for us,” Johnson said. “After three of the biggest games we’ve had, with all the emotion, we just didn’t have that same emotion.
“San Antonio, Phoenix, Detroit, those were pretty heavy for us. Sam was sick but forget all that. They shot the ball great. They played great and we just couldn’t rise to that level.”
Mike Dunleavy on the trade that sent Seattle’s Xavier McDaniel to Phoenix for Eddie Johnson and two draft picks: “I think it’s a trade that will help Phoenix. They get immediate help.” . . . Terry Teagle’s struggles continue. He was five for 16 on this trip. . . . The Lakers will play Washington at the Forum Sunday night.