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Malone says he’s a fan of young, tough Jazz team

SALT LAKE CITY — They’re tough but fun, they like each other, and they play hard.

Those are qualities Utah Jazz legend and two-time NBA MVP Karl Malone says he respects in this year’s edition of his former team. And Malone says he’ll be watching tonight when the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder meet in Game 6 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.

Tipoff is 8:30 p.m. at Vivint Arena.

“They love to play; it’s evident by watching them,” Malone said.

The Hall of Fame power forward says he plays attention to the team’s schedule, something he hasn’t always done with Jazz teams over the years.

“I love watching them,” Malone said. “I can actually say, the team we have now, I want to know when they play. … They play hard and they play together. They act like they want to be there.”

Malone declined to compare this year’s Jazz team to the Utah squads he led to a pair of NBA Finals appearances against the Chicago Bulls in 1997 and ’98, saying this year’s Jazz squad is “entirely different.”

“They’re making their mark their own way, and I love it,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of young guys that pull for each other, got a lot of young guys that are unselfish. … And after the game, they do their interviews (and) they don’t make excuses. They just go on about their business.”