SALT LAKE CITY — With 32 seconds to play in the first half at the Delta Center on Saturday night, Utah Coach Jerry Sloan was ejected for consecutive technicals. Maybe it was motivation for the Jazz. Or maybe it was simply a good time to disappear.
"I don't know if any coach wants to get kicked out of a game," said his Clipper counterpart, Larry Brown. "Unless it was me in the last five minutes."
By then, the game had taken a dramatic turn. The Clippers went from 14 points ahead midway through the second quarter to a 124-104 defeat, buried under another avalanche of Malone & Malone.
With all the Clippers had done to make this season look different from last by acquiring seven new players, this performance before 19,911 looked painfully familiar to a Game 5 loss in the first round of the playoffs here after the Clippers had taken a 17-point lead during the first half.
But there they were, cruising through the first half as if it were still Friday night at the Forum.
And there they went.
The Clippers (2-4) led by 55-45 at halftime after shooting 58.5% to Utah's 39.5%. They were still seemingly in control as late as 62-53 with 8 1/2 minutes to play in the third quarter.
Then the Jazz launched their first retaliatory strike: Jeff Malone. He scored from the left baseline, from the left flat with Mark Jackson in his face, and offered up his signature move by curling around a screen for a quick-release jumper. In his spare time, he flapped his arms after baskets and going into timeouts to draw the crowd back into being a factor.
When the smoke cleared, the Jazz had a 21-7 run and a 74-69 lead. Malone had 11 of the points during the run, en route to 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting.
"It felt great," he said later. "We needed someone to pick us up like that. We have so many players who can do that, it was just my night."
The Clippers could only agree.
"I've been around this league a long time," Ron Harper said. "I know Jeff. He is a guy who can hit one, two, three shots real quick. He made shots with guys' hands in his face, falling down, going to his left, going to his right."
The Clippers, who played without injured starting center Stanley Roberts, were still within 82-76 heading into the fourth quarter. Enter the closer: Karl Malone.
Relatively quiet early, having scored only three points during the 21-7 charge, he sparked a 12-3 run to open the final quarter. He had 19 points and five rebounds while playing 10 of those last 12 minutes and finished with 31 points. He went 17 of 17 from the line and had 19 rebounds. He started three of nine from the field.
"I started to look forward to the last seven or eight minutes of a ballgame to see what our guys will be like," Karl Malone said.
"That's when the team took over. They (the Clippers) got a little tired and that's when our team capitalized."
The Jazz outscored the Clippers, 37-21, during the third quarter and by 42-28 during the fourth.
"When you have a team down like that--good teams--you have to bury them," Mark Jackson said after the Clippers shot 30% (15 of 50) during the second half. "We let them stay in the game."
Kiki Vandeweghe had another good game off the bench for the Clippers. A night after scoring 24 at the Forum against the Lakers, he had 23 against the Jazz, tying Danny Manning for team-high honors.