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NBA PLAYOFFS

It's a Day at Beach for Malone, Russell

Jazz: After a bike ride in Venice, they regain their touch and roll over Lakers with 42 and 29 points, respectively.

May 11, 1997|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Forwards Karl Malone and Bryon Russell of the Utah Jazz needed to escape after being embarrassed in a 20-point loss to the Lakers in Game 3 of their NBA Western Conference semifinal series Thursday night at the Forum.

Malone, who missed 18 of 20 shots as the Jazz lost for the first time in six playoff games this season, and Russell, who missed nine of 11, went to Venice with several teammates Friday.

"We were talking and Shandon [Anderson] said, 'Let's ride a bicycle, I haven't ridden a bicycle in 10 years,' " Malone said. "We put the bikes on the rookie's credit card.

"We were recognized, but we were racing. It was just different. When I go into a city I never leave the hotel, I never go anywhere. I just knew more than anything I just needed to get away from the hotel. Out of 12 years I might have left my hotel five or six times.

"I wanted to be different for a day. I just got totally away from it. It was fun."

Malone and Russell had even more fun as the Jazz defeated the Lakers, 110-95, Saturday at the Forum to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Malone had 42 points, two shy of his career playoff high, and nine rebounds. Russell scored a career-high 29 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds as the Jazz came within one victory of advancing to the Western Conference finals for the fourth time in six seasons.

"I didn't listen to the TV or radio or talk on the phone or read the newspaper," Malone said. "No one had to tell me how terrible I played the other night."

Malone was anything but terrible Saturday, making 12 of 27 shots and all 18 free throws.

"Malone's a big gun and we need him to load up every time," Russell said. "He just had a bad game, but he came back and showed true leadership."

With the Lakers concentrating on trying to stop Malone by assigning two defenders to him, Russell scored 16 points in the first half, including 12 in the second quarter, as the Jazz took a 51-44 halftime lead.

"Russell got a lot of open looks," Laker guard Eddie Jones said. "With the [small forward] coming and doubling Malone so much, they found Russell wide open. You give him too much time to shoot the ball and he's going to make most of his shots."

Russell didn't mind being left alone to roam the perimeter.

"They can keep on leaving me open," Russell said. "I hope they do the same thing [in Game 5] Monday. In the first quarter things were just going for me. I missed my first shot and after that I just went on a roll."

After the Lakers cut an 18-point third-quarter deficit to four points with 7:05 to play, Russell got a rebound in traffic after Malone missed a jumper and made a layup as the Jazz ended the game with a 21-10 run.

"I just went to the board," Russell said. "I was predicting that it was going to come off on that side. It came off to the right place at the right time."

A free agent at the end of the season, Russell's value probably rose after he had his best season since leaving Long Beach State four years ago. He averaged a career-high 10.8 points and made a career-high 40.9% of his three-point shots as the Jazz won a franchise-record 64 games during the regular season.

"I think [small forward] was our weakest spot in previous years," Russell said. "Our [small forwards] didn't shoot the ball well and that was something I worked on in the off-season and it paid off.

"I guess teams don't have faith that Utah's [small forward] can knock down the jump shot and that's what I've been doing. When I came out of college I really wasn't thinking about a jump shot as much as playing defense. I think my defense is what kept me around the first couple of years.'

Malone started slowly Saturday, missing four of his first six shots. However, he ended the game with a flourish, scoring 26 points in the second half.

"I had a terrible game the other night and I laughed about it," Malone said. "I didn't laugh to keep from crying, I laughed because I haven't had a game like that in nine or 10 years."

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