Malone plays 39 minutes despite injury

Updated: June 9, 2004, 1:32 AM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Lakers forward Karl Malone sprained his right knee early in Los Angeles' 99-91 overtime victory in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, but played 39 minutes anyway.

Malone missed 39 games during the regular season with the same sprain of his medial collateral ligament. He had nine points and nine rebounds, improving on his four-point performance in the series opener.

Team spokesman John Black said Malone was day-to-day, but the second-leading scorer in NBA's history didn't sound so optimistic.

When asked if he had a sense about Game 3 at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Thursday night, Malone replied: "No, not really. Not right now."

Malone had his knee drained June 1, a day after the Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in the sixth and final game of the Western Conference finals. He said he was injured earlier in that series.

He came out of Tuesday night's game limping noticeably early in the second quarter, but returned to action less than six minutes later.

"It'll be all right," he said. "I had to stop worrying about scoring and try to do other things. My teammates didn't want me out there playing."

Malone said "seven or eight" of his 11 teammates expressed concern.

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy," said the 40-year-old Malone, who joined the Lakers last summer in search of his first championship after 18 years in Utah. "It's just one of those things you deal with.

"I didn't think about the rest of the series -- I just thought about this game right here. I'm used to playing through injuries. I just do what I do."

Malone said he apologized to trainer Gary Vitti for getting angry at him when he tried to talk Malone out of playing.

"He's doing his job. I took a little frustration out on him," Malone said.

Regarding the comeback victory, Malone smiled and said: "They should probably call us the Cardiac Lakers."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press