Los Angeles (41-21) at Utah (31-32)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Salt Lake City, UT
Temp: 80° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EST Mon Mar 8, 2004
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Karl Malone was not with the Los Angeles Lakers the first time they visited the Utah Jazz this season. He’s making sure not to miss the trip this time.

Malone, who has been sidelined since December with a sprained ligament in his right knee and is expected to miss another week, did not travel with the Lakers when they beat the Jazz 93-86 on Jan. 26.

But he was not at all pleased with the reports he heard from that game.

During a timeout, the Jazz mascot performed a skit in which he answered two fake telephone calls from someone mimicking Malone’s voice.

Jazz owner Larry Miller played a part in the skit when he took the phone and hung up on the “caller.” Malone, who spent his first 18 seasons with Utah, was especially upset with a reference to teammate Kobe Bryant’s pending rape trial.

“I guess it could be worse. I could be Ko…,” said the fake caller, who stopped short of saying “Kobe.”

“For them to put that out there about him, that’s disrespectful,” Malone said when he heard about the skit. “I will never, ever forgive them for this. No class at all.”

Malone has since toned down his ire.

“I don’t have any fish to fry in this right now,” Malone said. “Everybody’s waiting on me to say something crazy, but I’m just going to see what happens.”

Miller said he does not expect the feud to be resolved anytime soon.

“I think you’ve got to have positives along with the negatives in a relationship. Lately he’s been only negative,” Miller said. “I’ve had it.”

While Malone’s return will generate most of the buzz for this game, the Lakers will be trying to extend their winning streak to four games.

Shaquille O’Neal scored 32 points and Gary Payton added 18 Sunday to lead the Lakers to a 94-88 win over the New Jersey Nets.

The game was the Lakers’ first since Bryant re-injured his right shoulder on Friday. The All-Star guard could miss a month, but he hopes to be back much sooner.

“The first one was different. The first one, I had trouble raising my arm up, because it would just go dead,” Bryant said. “This time, I can raise my arm up. It just hurts a lot when I do it.”

O’Neal was pleased with the way the Lakers moved the ball against New Jersey.

“That should be the game plan for every game,” he said. “Guys were looking for me.”

The Jazz have dropped two straight, including a 91-70 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.

Raja Bell led the Jazz with 21 points, but Andrei Kirilenko scored just 10 points and was 2-of-19 from the floor.

Utah guard Gordan Giricek was not with the team because his wife Natasha gave birth to their daughter in Florida on Friday. Giricek is expected to rejoin the team Monday.

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