SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Karl Malone scored 25 points, including 13-of-13 from the foul line, as the Utah Jazz retained the NBA’s best record with a 96-85 win over Portland on Friday night.
In a battle of the league’s top two teams, the Trail Blazers erased a double-digit Jazz lead early in the fourth quarter by employing a trap defense. Utah made six turnovers in five minutes, and Kelvin Cato’s dunk cut Utah’s advantage to 81-74 with 7:20 left.
But Malone scored four points in an 8-2 Utah run that put the game out of reach. Portland, which had won five of its previous seven meetings with Utah, shot just 33 percent from the field in the second half.
The Jazz (33-10) moved 1 1/2 games in front of the Blazers (31-11) for the league’s best record. Utah also clinched a postseason tiebreaker edge on Portland by winning two of three games in the season series.