Experience, defense help Jazz hold off Mavs
Updated: Sunday April 22, 2001 2:31 AM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's experience and Karl Malone's defense made the difference against Dallas in the final minute.
Malone scored 26 points and John Stockton had 12 points, 18 assists and two go-ahead free throws with 25.8 seconds left as the Jazz scored the final six points and beat the Mavericks 88-86 Saturday.
In an emotional, closely contested opener to the best-of-five series, the Jazz prevailed in a frenzied atmosphere and took a 1-0 lead into Tuesday night's Game 2 in Salt Lake City.
Dallas coach Don Nelson was ejected midway through the fourth quarter, and the referees called seven technical fouls and one flagrant foul. But it was a call that wasn't made that had the Mavericks steamed at the end.
After Stockton hit two free throws with 25.8 seconds remaining to put the Jazz ahead 87-86, Dirk Nowitzki drove the lane at the other end. Nowitzki was stripped by Malone, and Donyell Marshall came away with the ball before being fouled with 3.3 seconds left.
Mavericks assistant Donn Nelson, who took over after his father was ejected with 7:20 to play, jumped and ran in front of the Dallas bench, stunned that no foul was called. Television replays appeared to show Malone stripping the ball cleanly from Nowitzki.
Marshall missed his first foul shot but made the second. After a timeout, Michael Finley inbounded to Nowitzki, who tossed it back to Finley for a 30-footer that bounced off the front of the rim at the buzzer.
"That was a tough game. Those guys are so talented," Stockton said. "They have a good team, and I expect this series to be a dogfight."
Marshall and Bryon Russell finished with 12 points each for Utah.
The Delta Center, where the Jazz finished 1-9 against playoff-bound teams toward the end of the regular season, was bedlam for excited Utah fans for much of the afternoon.
And the Jazz, the league's second-oldest team behind Portland, needed all the help they could get. Utah, seeded fourth in the West, and Dallas, seeded fifth, were as evenly matched as possible.
They split the season series, with each team winning twice on the road, and each went 53-29 during the regular season.
The Mavericks, back in the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, seemed ready to falter in the third quarter.
The Jazz closed the first half with an 8-0 run to take a 40-39 halftime lead, then began the second half with an 8-3 burst and followed a timeout with another 13-2 surge for a 57-44 lead with 6:19 to play in the third.
During the latter run, Nelson and his son were whistled for technical fouls after disputing a third-quarter turnover call that went against the Mavericks.
Dallas seemed ready to crumble, but the Mavericks charged back and took a 62-61 lead into the fourth quarter by holding the Jazz to four points in the final six minutes of the third.
Notes: The shot clock above Utah's basket broke after the third quarter, forcing officials to keep time from the scorer's bench. ... Malone got a technical late in the first half after throwing Shawn Bradley off his back. Bradley also got a personal foul. ... Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wore a white T-shirt with the phrase, "It's payback time" printed in four languages on the front. ... Dallas point guard Howard Eisley, who spent five seasons with the Jazz, was booed all day by Utah fans. ... Jazz publicist Kim Turner missed the game after the death of his father.