Malone Takes Over, Making Clippers Fall Short
History was there for the making, the product of the defense that had carried the Clippers through five consecutive victories and eight nights of on-court success in their last 11. No Los Angeles Clipper team has won six games in a row, and this one led, 97-94, with 2:24 to play at the Salt Palace Wednesday.
The night looked like so many lately: the Clippers having held the opposition to 96.6 points per game in those five consecutive victories.
Then Karl Malone, who had been a thorn in the Clippers’ side all night, made sure his irritation was lasting. He scored the final five points and grabbed a loose ball near game’s end to give Utah a 99-97 victory and keep the Jazz tied with the Houston Rockets, half a game behind the Midwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs.
The Clippers led, 97-94, on a jump shot by Charles Smith, but Malone tied it with 2:07 to go with a three-point play after he was fouled by Smith.
Malone broke the tie with a jump hook with 1:36 left, the final points of the game. The Clippers had one last chance to tie, but Ron Harper’s baseline jump shot was blocked by Mark Eaton.
The loose ball was retrieved by Malone, who scored 39 points in a victory that ended a three-game losing streak.
Eaton, who didn’t score but had four blocked shots and 11 rebounds, said he was sure Harper would take the final shot for the Clippers.
“He’d been hot the whole game, and he was the guy they were going to look for,” Eaton said.
Eaton said Jeff Malone, Harper’s man on defense, was screened away from Harper, leaving him in the corner alone.
“I hesitated for a second, but he looked like he was going to put it up,” Eaton said. “I just tried to get out there and get a hand in his face and bother him a little, and I managed to get a little bit of the ball.”
“Mark stepped out there and made a game-saving play,” Coach Jerry Sloan said.
“It was a good shot, but Mark Eaton got a hand on it,” said Harper, who scored 26 points. “I thought Mark was farther back in the paint. If I was to do it over, I would have taken it to the basket with him so far out. He’s 7-4 and he’s got those long arms, and he got a piece of the ball.”