Phoenix had every opportunity to blow another big lead Thursday.
Anybody who has watched the Suns for the past few years might have gotten that same eerily familiar uneasy feeling in their stomachs.
Up 18 midway through the third quarter and seemingly cruising to an easy victory, Phoenix allowed Utah to run off 11 straight points to close the gap to seven.
But just as quickly as the lead had disappeared, the Suns built it right back up.
Behind five straight points from Steve Nash, Phoenix absorbed the Jazz’ best punch and went on to win, 110-94.
“It was undoubtedly an important game for us tonight,” Nash told The Associated Press. “We learned our lesson and held our composure for longer stretches, and in particular, we held it together at the end of the game.”
The Suns (1-1) had a lot to be happy about coming off a disappointing opening-night loss against Portland just two nights prior.
Most notably being the performance of Hakim Warrick off the bench, as Michael Schwartz wrote in today’s Daily Dime.
The forward posted 18 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes (four more minutes than the starter Hedo Turkoglu played).
Warrick provided one of the many highlights of the night in the third quarter when he cocked back and posterized Jazz defender Paul Millsap.
Most encouraging from the highlight however, was not the dunk itself, but the pick-and-roll play that led to it.
Nash led a diving-to-the-paint Warrick with a picture perfect bounce pass to put the first-year Sun into SportsCenter highlight history.
With Amare Stoudemire gone, a big offseason worry was who would fill the open slot to play with the best pick-and-roll point guard in the league.
Well if Warrick’s play on Thursday is any barometer of how the season will go, the rest of the league might be in for a surprise.
Overall, Phoenix’s bench outscored their Jazz counterparts 50-16.
The complete second-team thrashing was helped by solid outings from both Channing Frye (14 points on 4-of-10 shooting) and Goran Dragic (11 points with a team-high six assists).
Another good sign from the game was the team rebounding the Suns took advantage of.
Even though Robin Lopez was limited to just 20 minutes of playing time because of foul trouble, the Suns still managed to secure 44 boards, just one less than the Jazz (0-2) got.
In the third quarter, Lopez sat down with six and a half minutes to play with five personals. Upon re-entering the game in the fourth quarter, the center fouled out shortly after.
With a small lineup in, the Suns found a way to secure long rebounds and drained the resulting wide-open three-pointers.
For the game, Phoenix shot 46 percent from the field.
The Suns made arguably their biggest statement just before halftime.
After two Andrei Kirilenko free throws cut the Phoenix lead to 11, the Suns went on to score five back-breaking points in the final 29 seconds of the half.
Jason Richardson sunk a 24-foot jumper with the shot clock expiring and then just a few seconds later after an Al Jefferson missed attempt, Nash hit Richardson in stride for a layup as time ran out.
Phoenix finished the half connecting on 7-of-13 three-point attempts. Conversely, the Jazz only made 1-0f-7.
The sequence at the end of the second quarter was a microcosm of how Utah played for the better part of three quarters Thursday: uninspired and lazy.
The team, coming off a 22-point opening-night loss to Denver, showed little fire coming out of the gate and the Suns subsequently jumped on the Jazz early and never trailed.
Leading the way for Utah was Al Jefferson with 20 points and nine rebounds. Millsap added 19 points and 13 boards.
Six Suns scored in double figures and all 10 players who entered the game played at least 15 minutes.
The balanced effort was a welcomed sight after not seeing much continuity throughout the preseason and first regular season game.