As the Jazz find themselves needing a win over Philadelphia to avoid more trouble on this trip, we bring you the following message: Charles Barkley owns Karl Malone.
They're certifiably two of the best forwards in basketball, both solidly in the NBA's top five in scoring and rebounding. But in six career games against the 76ers - even when Barkley guards somebody else - Malone has struggled like crazy, one reason the Jazz are 2-4 in those games."I know I haven't had great games against Philly, but a lot of guys haven't had great games against a particular team," shrugs Malone. "One of those things."
The Mailman had more trouble than usual against the Sixers last season. In two losses, Malone had totals of 29 points and 13 rebounds while Barkley racked up 66 points and 27 boards, almost delivering a Salt Palace victory by himself with 43 points in a dominating performance.
"The difference between them is the fact that Barkley is more of a one-on-one player," said the Jazz's Thurl Bailey, who will probably share the defensive assignment. "He's basically relied on to do the scoring, and he considers that team his. I take it as a challenge, a great opportunity - you know you're going to be in for a night's work."
Besides using his physical ability, Barkley has managed to knock Malone off his game by talking at him all game long and frustrating him. Malone won't buy that theory, but his numbers against the Sixers hardly say much for his ability to tune out Barkley and play.
The Jazz, meanwhile, could have assured themselves of at least a decent trip with an upset at New York Thursday, but they lost a fourth-quarter lead and Malone just missed a game-winning shot. Just as was the case with their overtime loss at Atlanta last December, that game could have dramatically changed the outlook of the trip.
Now, they just about have to beat Philly, because the next stop - Cleveland Tuesday - will be awfully tough.