SALT LAKE CITY -- They spoke of stealing one game on this three-game road trip and, for the Washington Bullets, last night was a golden opportunity. After falling behind the Utah Jazz by as many as 12 points in the first half, the Bullets were within three at the start of the final quarter.
But what took place over the next 12 minutes, well, it probably had the same effect as Karl Malone steamrolling the Bullets with his 18-wheeler. Actually it was Tom Chambers lowering the boom, scoring 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to pace Utah to a 113-91 win before a crowd of 19,911 at the Delta Center.
It was the fifth loss in a row for Washington (6-11), which lost for the seventh straight year in Utah. Pervis Ellison, in his second game back, scored 17 on 7-for-10 shooting to lead the Bullets. Calbert Cheaney and Rex Chapman added 16 each.
For Utah, it was a pick-your-hero kind of night. In addition to Chambers' 24, Malone chipped in with 27 points and 14 rebounds and John Stockton had 13 points and 18 assists. Eight of those assists came in the fourth quarter when the Jazz outscored the Bullets 38-19.
"We were close, and then we went back to our starters and we had the big letdown defensively," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "It was just a matter of us going out and playing people."
In the fourth quarter, the Bullets didn't. Utah shot 75 percent from the field in the fourth quarter against the Bullets, whose defense is second worst in the league in field-goal percentage (50.8 percent). Utah shot 54.8 percent for the game, the ninth straight game in which an opponent has shot 50 percent or better against Washington.
"I think in the fourth quarter is when you really have to buckle down," Ellison said. "You've really got to concentrate on the defensive end. If you can't score, that's OK. But if you can keep the other team from scoring, you can stay in the game."
Chambers scored five of his team's first seven fourth-quarter points that put Utah ahead 82-75. With 6:29 left, Chambers, off a feed from Stockton, scored on a layup to increase the lead to 14 -- and the rout was on.
Utah led by as many as 25, with 20.7 seconds left, and the sellout crowd was on its feet at the final buzzer, as the Jazz finished a 5-0 homestand.
"We took care of business at home, and now we want to go out and see what we can do on the road," said reserve forward Tyrone Corbin, who scored 14 points.
And the Bullets are left to see what they can do in Phoenix, a place where they haven't won since 1988. Washington continued having problems on defense. Malone ate up Tom Gugliotta inside in the first half when he scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting. When the Bullets ran double teams at him in the second half, Malone simply passed off to open teammates.
Said Gugliotta, who had seven turnovers to go with his 10 points and 11 rebounds in a frustrating evening, "He has a big body and he backs you down in the post. And Stockton looks for him every opportunity. Malone makes a living like that."
Tonight they face another successful point guard/power forward combination in Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley. Phoenix is the top-scoring team in the league, and the Bullets will need to take their struggling defense to a higher level to compete.
According to Gugliotta, the defensive problems are occurring when the Bullets' offense breaks down.
"If we can just be patient and make the one extra pass, we can eliminate that," Gugliotta said. "We took a lot of bad shots, and that got them layups."
"I don't think this is the time you talk about shaking things up," Unseld said. "We're playing good teams on the road in their home place. We've had Seattle, Utah and now Phoenix. I don't think we're talking about panicking."
Ellison, who said his legs still felt heavy despite his improved scoring, said the team has not lost hope of getting a win on this trip.
"We're looking to get that one [tonight]," said Ellison.
NOTES: Michael Adams, who did not practice Tuesday because of a sore neck, started and scored 10 points in 31 minutes. . . . Former Bullets guard Jeff Malone scored 11 points. He was a perfect 4-for-4 in the first quarter, in which Utah shot 73.9 percent. . . . Stockton's 18 assists were the most against the Bullets this season. Charlotte's Muggsy Bogues had 17 on Nov. 19.