Karl Malone is on the brink of joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan as the only NBA players to score more than 29,000 points.
But forget the milestone. Malone would rather talk about defense.
"I don't want to be known only as an offensive player," Malone said. "The defensive awards the last three years are sometimes what I'm most proud of."
For the past three seasons, coaches have selected Malone to the NBA's All-Defensive first team. Going against Malone most of the night, Charles Barkley had eight points and five rebounds.
Asked about breaking the 29,000-point barrier, Malone said: "I just want to concentrate on winning ballgames. It'll happen soon enough if I can stay healthy. I don't even think about it."
Stockton, meanwhile, was 8-for-8 from the floor and hit both of his free-throw attempts. Jeff Hornacek added 11 of his 17 points in the third quarter as the Jazz pulled away from a 44-44 tie.
"A couple of shots fell," Stockton said. "There really is no explanation. We try to do the same things that we do every night. We try to make cuts off of Karl because they are so worried about stopping him."
Malone was called for charging into Barkley with 6:37 to play in the third and referee Violet Palmer added a technical after Malone argued. The Rockets pulled within 48-45 on the ensuing free throw by Walt Williams.
It fired up the Jazz, who closed the eriod with a 20-14 run. Utah put the game out of reach with an 11-3 run over a span of 1:33 early in the fourth quarter with Malone, Stockton and Hornacek on the bench.
Reserve Howard Eisley scored 11 points as the Jazz avoided starting the season 0-2 for the first time in 14 years.
"I was really disappointed," coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We worked on these guys yesterday and I thought we had a good shootaround today. We're not transferring what our plan is to the floor."
Rockets swingman Shandon Anderson returned to the Delta Center, where he spent his first three NBA seasons with the Jazz.
Drafted by Utah in the second round in 1996, Anderson signed with the Rockets as a free agent for $2 million this season, rejecting Utah's offer of a starting slot and up to $24 million over five years.
Jazz fans didn't forget, lustily booing Anderson during introductions and every time he touched the ball. When he was called for an offensive foul with 8:18 remaining in the first quarter, the capacity crowd of 19,142 cheered wildly.
Anderson was scoreless after missing his only shot of the first half. He finished with four points on 2-for-4 shooting.
"I think I was a little anxious," Anderson said. "On the first two plays, I tried to rush the ball too early. Once I settled down in the second half, I hit a couple of shots."
After scoring 14 points in a 91-84 opening-night loss to the Lakers on Tuesday, Malone seemed poised to reach the milestone in one night. He scored 12 straight points during a five-minute span of the first quarter.
Malone was 8-for-12 from the field and 5-for-7 from the foul line. He added eight rebounds as the Jazz held a 37-28 rebounding advantage, bolstered by 10 boards from Greg Ostertag.
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