Everybody was trying to read something different into the Utah Jazz winning, 99-95, on Wednesday night at Seattle.
It was a regular-season game between teams that met in last season's Western Conference finals and it's only February.
"It doesn't matter, but it might," said Utah's Malone, who scored 26 points, including eight in the final 4:03 of the victory. "Who knows what would have happened if we would have had the home-court advantage last year?"
Added the Jazz's John Stockton, who had 13 assists and four steals: "It helps if there's a tiebreaker, but once the game's over it doesn't mean anything for the future."
Said Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan: "Some people are more psychological than I am. I just think this means three wins. When you start playing in the playoffs, people try to make a big deal out of that. But I really don't think it has anything to do with anything."
It means that Seattle, which lost in six games to Chicago in the NBA Finals last season, lost for the fourth time in six games.
Utah took a 97-93 lead with 15 seconds left on a three-point play by Antoine Carr, who took a pass from Malone, dunked it and made a free throw.
Denver 106, Washington 104--After being blown out in two games in a row, the Bullets, with new interim Coach Bob Staak, rallied when Denver missed eight of its first 10 fourth-quarter shots at home. But the Nuggets righted themselves and Dale Ellis hit a 17-foot jump shot with 11.6 seconds to play for a Denver victory.
Ellis and Ricky Pierce scored 23 points each for the Nuggets, who have won seven of 11 games.
Phoenix 99, Atlanta 81--Cedric Ceballos scored four of his 19 points during a 16-0 second-quarter run that carried the Suns to a victory at Phoenix.
Atlanta, which had won seven of its previous 10 games and 26 of the past 34, shot only 35% in losing.
Miami 118, Boston 117--Voshon Lenard scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway added 23 points and 15 assists for the Heat, which won in Boston for its fifth victory in a row.
Miami swept the season series against the Celtics for the first time in the Heat's nine-year history.
Philadelphia 113, San Antonio 97--Allen Iverson had 25 points, Jerry Stackhouse 22 and Don MacLean 21 for the 76ers, who shot 59% and committed only 11 turnovers in winning at Philadelphia.
Toronto 89, Cleveland 84--In his first start for the Raptors, Clifford Rozier scored 19 points, including six in the final 1 1/2 minutes of a victory at Toronto.
Rozier, signed to a 10-day contract last month, also had nine rebounds and six blocks.