LANDOVER -- The Utah Jazz are playing in a spanking new arena in Salt Lake City this season, but would be just as happy to play all its games at the friendly Capital Centre.
Utah recorded its eighth straight victory here last night, using the clutch shooting of former Bullets guard Jeff Malone and timely rebounding to defeat the Washington Bullets, 107-98.
The Bullets (4-6), who last beat the Jazz in Utah in 1987, were in excellent position to extend their modest two-game winning streak. Four times in the fourth quarter they closed to within a point, but could never make the crucial shot.
Usually, it is power forward Karl Malone and point guard John Stockton who spoil things for the Bullets. But the two All-Stars had relatively quiet nights. Malone, marred by fouls, scored a modest 22 points, and Stockton made only two of nine shots for eight points.
But Jeff Malone picked up the slack with 28 points, hitting 13 of 21 field-goal attempts. Forward Blue Edwards (14) and reserve center Mike Brown (13) provided vital baskets in crunch time for the Jazz (5-4).
Michael Adams led the Bullets again with 27 points. Tom Hammonds had 24 and Pervis Ellison 23.
Forward Harvey Grant, who missed the last four games with tendinitis in his right foot, tested it before the game and said it was still too tender to play.
Reserve guard Ledell Eackles also has sat out four games with a groin pull, and his return could be more than a week away.
The Bullets and Jazz have taken a different approach in the first three weeks of the season. Washington has enjoyed surprising success on the road, winning three of five, but before last night's game had managed to win only one of four at home.
Utah, on the other hand, was 2-1 playing at its new arena, the Delta Center, but 2-3 on the road with Miami and Orlando remaining on their East Coast swing.
Under Jerry Sloan, Utah has won more than 50 games the past three seasons and reached the Western Conference semifinals last year before bowing to Portland, 4-1.
The Jazz roster has undergone few significant changes. Utah added four rookies, with top draft pick Eric Murdock, a defensive-minded guard from Providence, as the most recognizable name.
Rookie forward Larry Stewart of Coppin State got his third straight start for the Bullets and drew the unenviable assignment of guarding All-NBA forward Karl Malone, who was averaging 30 points.
Stewart kept Malone under control while Adams and Hammonds sparked the Bullets to a 12-7 lead.
Aggressive defense by the Bullets forced the Jazz to use up most of the clock and then take low-percentage shots. Utah managed only nine points in the first seven minutes while Washington padded its lead to 16-9.
Both teams struggled offensively in the next three minutes. Adams was carrying the Bullets, making a layup and three free throws to provide a 22-14 cushion.
Jeff Malone sparked a 9-1 Utah run that trimmed the deficit to 25-23 after one quarter.
Both coaches used their reserves to start the second quarter and only four points were scored in three minutes. A backdoor layup by Stockton produced a 27-27 tie, and Thurl Bailey's two free throws put the visitors ahead.
After two more ties, Bailey and rookie forward David Benoit combined to give Utah a 37-31 spread.
Bullets coach Wes Unseld went back to his starters, but the Jazz maintained a six-point spread despite three baskets by Pervis Ellison. A three-point shot by Adams sliced the deficit in half at 45-42.
L By halftime, Karl Malone had boosted the Jazz lead to 52-44.
Five points by Hammonds pulled the Bullets to within three, 54-51, in the opening minutes of the second half.
Utah responded with a 6-0 spree, but the Bullets got a break when Karl Malone was forced to the bench with four fouls three minutes into the third quarter.
Utah upped its advantage to 83-76 after three quarters with a buzzer-beating layup by Murdock.