Malone's Glory Stolen by Jordan
By Greg Beacham
Sunday, June 14, 1998; 11:48 p.m. EDT SALT LAKE CITY Michael Jordan stole so much from Karl Malone on Sunday night.
Jordan stole what was perhaps Malone's best chance for a championship with his 45-point performance in Chicago's 87-86 victory in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Jordan stole the only basketball dream Malone has left and added a sixth championship ring to his already burgeoning collection.
And when Malone had the ball in his hands with a chance to ensure a Utah win, Jordan stole that, too.
``That's part of all this,'' Malone said shortly after the game, tears starting to well in his eyes. ``We just didn't get it done down the stretch.''
With 20 seconds to play and the Jazz up by a point, Malone backed into the low block and picked up his dribble to turn and shoot. From his blind side, Jordan came behind Malone and batted the ball away.
Malone fell to the court and, for a moment, was completely still. He knew that he had been robbed of more than the basketball.
His final turnover was an unfortunate end to another standout performance by Malone as Jordan came down and buried the game-winning jumper with 5.2 seconds to play.
The Jazz were more than willing to live and die with the ball in Malone's hands.
``I like my chances of going to Karl Malone every time,'' said John Stockton, whose 3-point attempt at the buzzer was Utah's final chance to extend the best-of-7 series. ``He makes great passes, he makes great decisions and he scores.''
``Our guy did everything he could,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. ``Karl Malone left his heart on the court, like he always does.''
Malone's 31 points came on 11-for-19 shooting, and he led the Jazz with 11 rebounds. He was even 9-for-11 from the free throw line.
Malone left his own physical mark on the series. Scottie Pippen laughed when he was asked what caused his back injury that limited his effectiveness in Game 6.
``I took too many charges from Karl Malone,'' he said.
On Sunday, Malone picked up exactly where he left off in his heroic 39-point performance in Game 5. He made his first four shots of the game, each tougher than the last, and carried that momentum throughout the game.
Malone often scored at will against Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley and Bill Wennington. In the second quarter, Jordan and Malone played a high-stakes game of H-O-R-S-E, each draining shot after shot. Jordan finished the quarter with 17 points, two more than Malone.
But Malone's last points of the season came with 2:32 to play. The battle continued into the final minute, when Jordan took over the game and Malone made the last of his five turnovers.
Jordan accepted the MVP trophy shortly after the game, and a teary-eyed Malone could only watch. The Mailman sat in the trainer's room for 45 minutes after the game, and then he left the Delta Center without speaking to the media.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press