2001 NBA Finals
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Talking tough

Mavs coach: Jazz manipulate refs, abuse rules

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Posted: Monday April 23, 2001 10:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday April 24, 2001 12:13 PM

  Don Nelson Don Nelson fired the opening round in a verbal barrage by accusing Utah of dirty play. Ronald Martinez/Allsport

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson is complaining the Jazz manipulate referees and abuse the rules.

Utah forward Karl Malone wouldn't be drawn into a verbal scrap Monday.

"I hate soaps," the Mailman said. "I don't watch soaps, so I have no desire to talk about soap operas."

Fine, but that won't stop the Mavericks from brashly challenging the Jazz leading to Tuesday's Game 2 in the best-of-five series. Utah won the opener 88-86 on Saturday.

The matchup has been, up to this point, portrayed as a contest between Utah's aging but savvy veterans and the talented but untested Mavericks, who made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.

After narrowly losing Game 1, the swaggering Mavericks are confident they can beat the Jazz on the road in the postseason, just as they did in winning twice at the Delta Center this season.

"Watching the tape, everyone in the locker room felt we let one get away," Dallas center Shawn Bradley said. "There were a lot of 'if' factors. ... The bottom line is, we didn't win and we feel we can."

The Mavericks are walking tough, and now Nelson wants his team talking tough, too. Nellie even showed how it's done, firing the opening round in a verbal barrage by accusing Utah of dirty play.

"The Jazz manipulate referees so well with their flops," he said. "They abuse the rules. It's frustrating to play against that kind of a team, and it's frustrating to coach against them.

"But they sure do it well," he added. "I sure have to give them credit."

The Mavs quickly stepped in line behind him. Asked the best way to match Utah's physical play, Bradley said: "You've got to be professional, keep your head and flop against a flopper, like Coach said."

It's more fuel for a rivalry that's had some acrimonious moments. Malone, in particular, has had run-ins with Dallas before.

The Mailman has jawed with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in the past and even bumped chests with Nelson during a game in Dallas in January 2000. That face-to-face showdown came after Malone put a knee into Bradley's stomach.

After the teams played in November, Malone was fined $7,500 and suspended one game by the league office for a backhanded slap to ex-Maverick Christian Laettner.

But so far in the playoffs, Malone has avoided fanning the flames.

"I respect their team and their owner and who they are, but I don't have any conversation with any of them," Malone said Monday. "I have a job to do, and that's what I try to do."

Yet when Malone was asked seconds later which Dallas player does the best job of guarding him, the 16-year veteran and two-time NBA MVP couldn't resist some sarcasm.

"Who holds and grabs the best?" he asked. "All of them do a tremendous job of guarding me. Without a doubt, they're the toughest team for me to play against.

"I'm surprised I'm scoring any points," said Malone, who had 26 in the series opener. "I don't know if I belong on the same floor."

The Mavericks said Saturday they planned to be more physical in Game 2, but point guard Steve Nash took it a step farther Monday.

"I was taught to play hard, physical and take it on the chin, rather than flop," Nash said. "That's great for them. Hopefully, we can get better at it. We've got to join in, rather than be stubborn about it."


 
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Multimedia
Don Nelson can't believe how little it took to get tossed from Game 1. (146 K)
Nelson isn't going to added any unnecessary pressure to his team. (238 K)
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