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Jazz holds for 2-0 lead

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2001


SALT LAKE CITY -- John Stockton and Karl Malone have been in the playoffs so often, they can instantly find a comfort zone when pressure mounts.

Malone had 34 points and Bryon Russell had 24 as the Jazz beat the Mavericks 109-98 in another emotional contest, building a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

The 39-year-old Stockton scored 17 in 42 minutes as the veteran Jazz outhustled, outmuscled and outplayed the Mavericks for three quarters, then held on in the fourth.

"You can talk about the series all you want but we won the ball game," said Malone, 37. "We ran off a nice lead but they cut it down to three, and then they got a good look at a three. We'll take 2-0 any day.

"Bryon stepped up huge for us," Malone said. "He looked like the so-called old Bryon, before the ankle injury (suffered early in the season). He was doing everything. He was rebounding. He shot the ball well."

The Mavericks trailed by 20 late in the third quarter but outscored the Jazz 15-6 over the first six minutes of the final quarter. Dallas pulled within 90-87 on Dirk Nowitzki's four-point play. He hit a three-pointer and was fouled by Russell. He made the ensuing free throw, and the Jazz seemed to be in trouble. But Malone and Stockton had all of Utah's points in a 6-0 run that regained the momentum.

"We were a little confused out there," Stockton said. "They threw some things at us and we didn't react well. But the guys on the floor figured it out, got some easy shots and busted it open."

Game 3 is Saturday at Reunion Arena. Utah, in the playoffs for the 18th straight season, is looking for its first sweep since beating the Lakers in four games in the 1998 Western Conference finals.

"This series is not over," Malone said. "We're going to a war zone down in Dallas, but that's part of it."

Michael Finley led the Mavericks with 32 points while Steve Nash scored 20 and Juwan Howard had 17. Dallas, which made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, is still looking for its first post-season victory since 1988.

"Our chances are still just as good," Howard said. "You have to win three games, and they only have two."

After Dallas pulled within 90-87, the Mavericks missed a chance to tie when Nash missed a three.

"That was the biggest play of the game," Nash said. "It was straight, dead-on, just a little long."

Utah's Olden Polynice was ejected after a flagrant foul on Shawn Bradley.

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