HOUSTON, Dec. 23 (Ticker) --
The dim lighting of the Compaq Center did
not affect the red-hot shooting of the Utah Jazz.
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scored 24 of his season-high 31 points in the second
half and overcame lighting problems to make three huge jumpers
in the final 90 seconds and lift the Jazz to a 96-91 victory
over the Houston Rockets.
Utah shot 69 percent (11-of-16) in the fourth quarter and had an
86-84 lead before half the lights in the arena went out with
2:49 remaining. The teams agreed to play with minimal lighting,
but the conditions could not slow the Jazz.
"It's kind of like when you're a little boy growing up," Malone
said. "You want take that last shot before the sun goes down,
but you have to be home before sunset."
made two free throws to give Utah the lead for
good at 88-86 with 2:34 to go and Matt Harpring
added a jumper.
Houston's Steve Francis
responded with a three-point play before
Malone took over.
The 39-year-old veteran buried a fallaway jumper at the 1:30
mark and added a 16-footer 30 seconds later for a 94-89 lead.
After a dunk by Houston rookie Yao Ming
, Malone sealed the win
with a shot from just inside the 3-point line with 32 seconds
"He made big shots. We had guys flying at him and he kept
making them," Houston guard Cuttino Mobley
said. "He showed why
he's the best power forward ever to play the game."
Stockton assisted on all three of Malone's clutch shots and
finished with eight points and 11 assists.
"I don't know what to tell you, but they're not your average
vets," Mobley said. "The way they are playing at their age, I
really admire. I hope when I'm 40 I'm as consistent as that."
Malone made 14-of-26 shots from the floor and collected nine
rebounds and six assists as Utah improved to 3-0 on a four-game
"I was kind of in a zone tonight," he said. "It was the kind of
zone where you believe you're going to make it. I haven't shot
the ball well all year, but I've kept working at it. I've been
playing for 17 years, so you don't get down about it."
"He just keeps playing," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan added. "You
don't have to talk to him. It's not like I have to go up with a
handful of candy to him. It's amazing when you expect a guy 40
years old to provide energy, and that's what he did tonight for
Harpring finished with 25 points and Calbert Cheaney
for the Jazz, who shot 51 percent (38-of-74) from the floor and
made 18-of-20 free throws.
Houston shot 54 percent (35-of-65) overall and was 17-of-17 from
the line but committed 22 turnovers that led to 34 points for
"Who would've thought you could shoot 54 percent and make all
your free throws and still lose the game?" Houston coach Rudy
Tomjanovich said. "The turnovers killed us tonight. We have to
do a better job of taking care of the basketball."
Francis scored 26 points and Yao had 18 for the Rockets, who
lost for just third time in 13 home games this season.
Houston had its largest lead at 74-67 with 10:10 to play. But
Utah scored 13 of the next 17 points, highlighted by a pair of
jumpers by Harpring.
Malone had been held scoreless in the fourth quarter before
burying a jumper with 5:56 remaining to give the Jazz their
first lead of the second half at 80-78.