These days, finding a good rhythm is a hard thing for the Utah Jazz to do. For seven games, they improvised with Jeff Malone out nursing a groin pull. They managed to get through that spell respectably. Then he returned for three games. But once again the Jazz's shooting star is on the fritz.
With the Jazz playing Golden State Friday night at 8:30 (MST) it appears they will again have to adjust to playing without Malone. After sustaining a back injury last Monday against San Antonio, he missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday. Though he made the trip to the Bay Area Thursday night, he is unlikely to start in Friday's game. Team trainers say he's more likely to be ready for the Sunday game at Seattle.The on-again-off-again status of Malone lately has taken a toll on the Jazz's rhythm, says Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan.
"It's tough on the other guys. It's hard for them to get back into a rhythm when we have to make changes," said Sloan.
In Malone's absence, rookie Andy Toolson played steadily, averaging 5.2 points during that span. Sloan said he plans to start Toolson again if Malone can't answer the call against the Warriors.
While Sloan says it is hard to adjust to lineup changes, he praised the play of Toolson. "He did as good a job as possible. Whenever we've put him in, he's been very solid."
If an injured Malone isn't worry enough, the Jazz can also bite their nails over their upcoming schedule. Friday's game begins a long spell of homeless nights, in which they play nine of their next 10 games on the road.
"If you start worrying about how many road games you have, you get thrown completely out of kilter," said Sloan. "If we started saying, Well, we've got 10 games and nine of them are on the road, we'd have a rough time if we did that. It's like a rookie saying he's got 82 games to play. It's better to take them one at a time than looking ahead 10 games."
For the last three weeks, the Warriors have been on an up-and-down ride through the NBA. After losing two games to start February, they have alternated wins and losses for the last seven games. If that means anything, they're due for a loss. The Warriors' last outing was a Wednesday night 108-105 win at Minnesota.
Golden State, 29-22, has lost five of nine, after winning nine of 11. The Jazz, 34-17, have won three of their last four.
Golden State presents three major problems for the Jazz: guards Mitch Richmond, Tim Hardaway and forward Chris Mullin. All three are scoring more than 23 points a game. Mullin, in particular, has been hot lately, scoring 30 or better in six of the last seven games.
Alton Lister, the team's center, missed the last two games with the flu, but is expected to be back against the Jazz.
PREGAME NOTES: Jazz guard John Stockton appeared to have slightly injured his right thigh during Thursday's practice session, but returned to the scrimmage and isn't expected to be slowed down against the Warriors . . . Coach Jerry Sloan has been sick with the flu this week . . . Sloan will coach his 200th game for the Jazz on Sunday against Seattle . . . Mark Eaton will be playing in his 700th career game for the Jazz on Friday . . . Mullin, Richmond and Hardaway are the top-scoring trio in the NBA, averaging 74.4 points among them . . . the game will be aired on PSN, with the pregame show at 8 p.m.