On the brink of elimination from the NBA playoffs, the Phoenix Suns aren't going to hold anything back in their game with the Utah Jazz tonight (8:30 at the Salt Palace).
The Suns say they are tired of being pushed around and are vowing to push back tonight."Two teams can play at that game," said Phoenix Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons after a spirited practice at the Salt Palace Wednesday afternoon. "It's been extremely physical and we've allowed some of the Jazz to manhandle us without retaliating."
Does that mean the Suns will retaliate against the Jazz tonight? "Let's put it this way. I've seen Kevin (Johnson) go to the floor pretty hard. I'm waiting to see (John) Stockton go," said Fitzsimmons referring to an incident Tuesday when Mark Eaton twirled Johnson around before depositing him on the floor.
The Suns' players are singing a similar tune to their coach.
"Those guys are playing real physical and we have to respond," said Xavier McDaniel. "We're all getting clobbered when we go to the basket. We've got to maximize our fouls with hard fouls. We've got to start being the aggressor."
"We can't be pushed around any more," said Dan Majerle. "We need to go out and play exactly like they do."
Majerle, who has been battling a bad back all series added another injury late in Tuesday's game, when he was poked in the eye by Karl Malone.
The Suns' team doctor, Richard Emerson, said Majerle has a bruised retina, but should be able to play. Majerle's vision was still blurred Wednesday when Majerle sat in his street clothes, but Emerson said, "By gametime, most of the irritation should be relieved."
Fitzsimmons had said after Tuesday's game he would look at the films to see if perhaps Marjerle was hit on purpose. But Wednesday Fitzsimmons said he didn't see any intent to injure, although he did make an implication about Karl Malone's play.
"It was very agressive, Karl Malone hit him going for the ball. But Karl hits a lot of guys and takes pride in it," said Fitzsimmons."I'm not suggesting he did it on purpose. But I am suggesting that Mike Brown kicked Andrew Langon purpose," he said, referring to another incident when Brown was called for a technical foul when he kicked Lang on a dunk shot.
To stay alive for a possible Game 5 in Phoenix Saturday, the Suns will have to improve their anemic shooting (41.7 percent, 37.6 by the starters).
Whether they shoot well or not, the Suns won't go down without a fight.
"If anyone's going to be the aggressor Thursday night, it's going to be the Phoenix Suns," promised Fitzsimmons.