One of the most important players on either team could be missing when the Jazz and Suns meet in today's second playoff game.
Jazz guard Jeff Malone and Phoenix forward Dan Majerle both sat out Friday's practice sessions with injuries. Malone has a lower back strain, an injury that caused him to miss five games during the regular season. Majerle has a cyst in his back, causing nerve irritation in the spine and numbness in his right leg. As a result, he missed five games in April.The absence of either would be a major loss to his team. Malone scored 21 points in the Thursday Jazz win, making nine of 15 shots. He averaged 18.6 points a game in the regular season.
Majerle, a strong candidate for the NBA's Sixth Man Award, averaged 13.6 points.
Majerle is in his third season in the NBA, having been drafted out of Central Michigan - the 14th pick overall. Malone, in his eighth NBA season, was drafted 10th overall in the 1983 NBA Draft (Washington) after a career at Mississippi State.
Malone was worked on by a chiropractor prior to Friday's light practice. After working with the team for a few moments, his back became sore again and he stood on the sidelines for the remainder of the time.
"It feels better now," he said after the treatment, "but it was stiff this morning."
Ironically, it was contact between Majerle and Malone that caused Malone's back injury to return. Malone said he went up for a shot and arched his back.
As for his chances of playing today against the Suns, he said, "If it's not worse, I'll probably play. If it's like it was this morning, I won't be able to play."
He continued, "It's hard to say. I hope I'm ready. I don't know how I'll feel in the morning."
Majerle, too, missed his team's workout. "I'm going to sit out today and plan on playing tomorrow."
Majerle played in the first game, totaling eight points and two rebounds against the Jazz. He scored a season high 26 on March 13 against Portland.
Malone, who joined the Jazz last summer, finished second in the NBA in free throw percentage. His high game was 43 points Dec. 11 against Golden State.