Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz lost to Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
But Jazz coach Jerry Sloan suggested after the 89-84 defeat at Target Center that he might have lost more than a game his team.
Although Sloan was ejected late in the third quarter for arguing foul calls with official Luis Grillo, he seemed more upset with his team's play than with any whistles.
The Jazz scored just 12 first-quarter points and Sloan said, "I didn't ever think we'd score 30."
"We looked like an expansion team that has never been around each other before," Sloan added.
"I did a terrible job of getting them ready to play. When you can't get your team ready to defend the pick-and-roll, that's my responsibility. If we can't do that, then somebody else has to do it."
Malone called Utah's defense dismal.
"Every guy, first of all, before you get help, me included, needs to take that responsibility," Malone said. "You have to be able to play your guy. And I didn't do that. And we as a team didn't do that."
Malone missed 10-of-16 shots and was flustered in his first-ever matchup with Garnett, who used to play small forward until the Wolves drafted Wally Szczerbiak this summer.
But Garnett refused to acknowledge he got the better of the 36-year-old power forward and finds it laughable that some across the league say Malone is showing signs of age.
"Let me tell you something, Karl Malone's just like fine wine. He's aging and maturing at the same time and getting better and better," Garnett said after scoring 29 points.
"When the man's been in the league about 15 years, you can't ever say he's getting old, because of knowledge," Garnett said. "Knowledge is power. He'll always use that against you and you've got to go out and know he can take this game over at any time. It's like a fact almost."
The teams play again Monday night at the Delta Center and the last thing Garnett wanted to do was relish in his Round 1 supremacy.
"Just one of those nights when his shot wasn't falling and I was trying to play D. Karl Malone has 29,000-plus points and you know, me just trying to put a little more added pressure on doesn't change anything," Garnett said. "He had an off night. I've got to see the same guy in about four or five days and I'm sure he'll be ready."
Sam Mitchell scored five points, tying Doug West's franchise record of 6,216 career points for the Wolves.
"He'd better enjoy that," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said, "because he's not going to have it very long with Kevin Garnett around."
Mitchell's accomplishment was lost in the close game, but Garnett said it was a special night nonetheless.
"He's been nothing but a mentor to me. I always thank him and Terry Porter for sort of raising me right in the league. That's a great accomplishment for him," Garnett said. "Someday I'll catch it and try to break it. But right now he can have it."
Garnett scored 12 of his points in the final quarter, holding off a Jazz charge that threatened to hand the Wolves their second straight collapse from an 11-point fourth-quarter lead.
Garnett took over after the Jazz had pulled to 73-70, scoring the next eight points for the Wolves. He drew a foul from Malone and sank both shots, then he stole the ball at the other end and hit a fadeaway over Malone for a 77-70 lead.
Garnett then drew an offensive foul on Malone and hit a fadeaway over John Stockton for a 79-70 lead with less than four minutes left.
Stockton and Malone each scored 19 points for Utah.
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