So as of this moment, in the frequently changing West playoff race, the Suns sit as the fourth team in a 4-way tie for second place. That would be something of a drag if the season did indeed finish thusly, as it would mean that despite have the second-best record in the conference, the Suns would enter the playoffs as the 5th-seeded team. And open on the road. Against the Jazz. Dammit.
Let’s look back at the Suns vs. Jazz thus far this season, and what to expect if they do indeed meet each other in the playoffs.
The Suns have played the Jazz thrice so far this season, and have one more game to come…the final game of the season…in Utah…and most likely things like playoff seeding will still be undecided, so it will be meaningful for both teams. Yikes. They didn’t play each other this season until January 25th. They played in Utah, and the Jazz won 124-115. The Jazz finished the game with an Offensive Efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 129.0, well above their season average of 107.9. In what is becoming a disturbing (but not surprising trend) as I look back at Suns losses this season, the Jazz finished the game with four more total rebounds than the Suns had defensive rebounds (35-31). Oh, and the Jazz went ahead and tacked on THIRTEEN offensive rebounds, for a better-than-solid +17 in the rebound category. I guess there aren’t really any other numbers that matter, are there? Oh, and this was right before the Suns quit screwing around and got their shit together after inserting Lopez into the starting lineup. It’s not an excuse…just a comment…
The Suns and Jazz played in Phoenix on March 5th. Before this game, Lee Tawil from over at Purple and Blues asked me to do a little Q&A on my thoughts on the matchup. I predicted a 4-point Suns victory, though I conceded that it would be a difficult win for the Suns as it was their 5th game in 7 nights (going home-road-home-road-home) and (naturally) the second night of a back-to-back. I was right about the part where I said “difficult” and “Suns win” as they were beaten 116-108. I also said I was most worried about Paul Millsap. I thought Lopez and Stoudemire were doing an admirable job of defending guys like Okur and Boozer, but Millsap is just such a beast. Millsap finished the game with 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 fouls in 22 minutes. I’m awesome. I will give myself the “best Suns player” one, as I picked the dominant STAT, who finished with 30-7 (30-15 would’ve looked a lot better, eh? Even 30-12? 10?). This was a pretty close battle on the boards, with the Suns only getting outrebounded by 5 (43-38). Of course, 19 of 43 Jazz rebounds were offensive, so that hurts. Additionally, let’s talk turnovers. Utah had 11 turnovers in the game, but negated them, so to speak, with 11 steals. The Suns had 18 turnovers, and took back…um…one of those. One steal for the game. Not helpful.
Just over two weeks later, the Jazz came back to PHX for a redux. There is only one word that can describe Utah’s offense in this game: Suckfest. It was bad. It was awful. It was just straight-up nasty. Utah shot .386 from the floor, and an atrocious 0-fer from three. That’s right: 9 shots, 0 made buckets. That’s a bad offensive night. Utah outplayed the Suns in every other respect; rebounds, free throws, assists, turnovers, you name it. But they couldn’t shoot to save their lives that night, and the Suns were able to pull it out.
So what does that mean for the final game of the season and a potential playoff matchup? Well, I’d say the Suns sure as hell gonna need somebody to grab some rebounds. I don’t care if it’s Amar’e or Lopez or Dwayne Jones or Lou or whoever…but they’re gonna need to get some rebounds. Because I don’t think they can go ahead and count on the Jazz shooting .386 over seven games.