Utah 104, Chicago 93
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Karl Malone finally played like the Most Valuable Player and Greg Foster played the game of his career as the Utah Jazz got back into the NBA Finals by holding on for a 104-93 Game Three victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Karl Malone
Karl Malone scored 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Game 3.
Malone, who missed two clutch free throws in Game One and shot poorly in Game Two, had 37 points and 10 rebounds as he finally outdueled Michael Jordan. He scored 22 points in the first half and set the tone for the Jazz, who began strong and aggressive. In the fourth quarter, he scored nine points and pulled down several key rebounds, thwarting Chicago's late comeback.

"It's time for the big guys to step up and be more physical," said Malone, who shook off a twisted ankle in the final period.

Foster, a journeyman who has played for six teams in seven years and was cut by the Bulls in 1994, victimized his former team. He scored 15 of his career-high 17 points in the first half and teamed with Malone to key Utah's pivotal second-quarter surge.

John Stockton had 17 points, 12 assists and some clutch hoops down the stretch for the Jazz, who continued their dominance at the Delta Center. Utah improved to 47-3 at home this season, including 9-0 in the playoffs. It has not lost at home since February 23rd, a span of 22 games.

Bryon Russell scored 14 points for Utah, which was without forward Shandon Anderson. Anderson was in Atlanta for his father's funeral.

Jordan scored 26 points, but 10 came in the in the final period, when the Bulls were scrambling back into the game. Pippen had a Finals record seven three-pointers and 27 points and Brian Williams added 16 off the bench. Dennis Rodman, sporting a new color pattern in his hair, was scoreless with three rebounds.

But Chicago never overcame its slow start. The Bulls wanted to deliver an early knockout punch as they did last year in Seattle but they were overwhelmed by the Jazz and trailed by as many as 24 points.

Games Four and Five are Sunday and Wednesday at the Delta Center, which was rocking from tip to buzzer. The home team is 15-5 in the last four NBA Finals.

Hosting a Finals for the first time in their 23-year history, the Jazz nearly blew the roof off the Delta Center as members of the Bulls were forced to plug their ears.

Included in the deafening pregame festivities were a roaring motorcycle, a one-minute fireworks display and boxing personality Michael Buffer, who delivered his trademark "Let's Get Ready To Rumble!" Thousands of balloons were released from the rafters.

"The fans are really knowledgeable about the game," Foster said. "They really get after it. This is the only show in town, and they're behind us all the way."

Whether it was the noise or the altitude, the Bulls were not ready. But for the first time in the series, Malone was. After a 6-of-20 shooting performance in Game Two, he shot 7-of-11 in the first quarter, collecting 15 points and six rebounds as the Jazz raced to a 31-22 lead.

"I think he felt more comfortable at home," Jordan said. "He came in and made a statement to go inside and get some offensive attempts. It became effective."

Jordan opened with two three-pointers and Pippen made one before Malone took control, scoring nine straight Utah points. He had a tip-in and a three-point play, then made a pair of jump hooks before Howard Eisley's drive gave the Jazz a 20-15 lead with 4:05 to go.

Malone scored again and Foster had two foul shots and completed a three-point play after a strong drive to the hoop. After Toni Kukoc made a jumper, Malone answered with his own from the foul line and Eisley's two free throws closed the quarter.

"I know Karl Malone well enough," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "I've been with him 12 years, and I've seen him and he always comes back and tries, always tries to play hard. I think he got himself involved emotionally defensively right from the beginning, which was important for us. He's an important factor when he does that. I think the offense goes a little better for us and the other players play off of him a little bit more."

The second period began with a technical foul on Pippen. Chris Morris scored twice around a basket by Foster, extending Utah's lead to 38-25 with 9:32 remaining.

Jordan answered a three-point play by Malone with a jumper and a follow slam by Foster with a three-point play, keeping Chicago within 43-33 at the 6:54 mark. But the Jazz countered with a 10-2 burst that included back-to-back three-pointers by Morris and Foster, opening their largest lead of the half at 53-35 on a drive by Malone with 4:44 left.

"The big guys whipped up on us tonight," Chicago coach Phil Jackson said. "Foster and Malone both did a great job out there. I thought the Jazz's energy was terrific. They got out and ran early. They did the things they do that makes them a great team."

Foster answered Pippen's two three-pointers with a follow shot and two free throws. The Jazz closed the quarter with another drive by Malone and a patented pick-and-roll from Malone to a cutting Stockton for a 61-45 bulge.

The Jazz shot 53 percent (24-of-45) from the field in the first half while holding the Bulls to 42 percent (16-of-38). Jordan scored 14 points but was never the factor he was in the opening two games. Chicago's lone bright spot was Williams, who scored 10 points and was very active.

"Our defense never really reacted well towards Karl's explosiveness in the first half," Jordan said. "I think we kind of got laid back on our heels a little bit, the way he came out aggressively."

Utah poured it on in the third quarter. Greg Ostertag opened with a pair of inside baskets, building the lead to 20 points. A jumper by Luc Longley closed the deficit to 68-51, but Malone made a drive over Jordan and a jumper as Stockton was thrown to the floor. Stockton made the free throw, then fed Russell for a reverse dunk and a 75-51 lead with 6:46 remaining.

The Jazz went cold, missing 12 of their last 13 shots in the quarter. The Bulls scored the last seven points and entered the final period trailing 77-60.

Chicago kept coming in the fourth quarter but Utah responded. A tip by Williams cut the deficit to 80-69 but Russell and Malone buried jumpers, rebuilding the lead to 15 points midway through the period.

"I think you get in that situation when you're ahead," Sloan said. "You play a little too conservative and we kept telling them to play to win, not to lose. I think we got into that mode a little bit, where we were playing not to lose."

Two three-pointers each by Jordan and Pippen rallied Chicago within 90-83 with 2:49 remaining. But Malone made a drive, and after another three-pointer by Pippen, Malone and Foster each sank two free throws to effectively seal it at 94-83 with under two minutes to play.

Utah made its last 14 free throws and was 26-of-30 from the line.


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