Phoenix Suns 107, Utah Jazz 105 — A Nashty finish

Posted by on April 4th, 11:31 pm

Steve Nash drilled the go-ahead bucket on a broken play to lead the Suns to a vital 107-105 victory over the Utah Jazz. (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart)

Steve Nash drilled the go-ahead bucket on a broken play to lead the Suns to a vital 107-105 victory over the Utah Jazz. (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart)

Ever since Amare Stoudemire left town, the Suns have lacked a go-to scorer, the kind of player teams rely on to get a bucket in crunch time when they need it most.

Well, apparently Steve Nash has added that responsibility to his already lengthy job description after drilling two go-ahead baskets in the final 14 seconds to lead Phoenix to a critical 107-105 victory over the Utah Jazz that vaulted the Suns past Utah into ninth place in the West, just a game behind Denver and Houston for the final two playoff spots in the West.

“You get the ball in his hands and you know he is going to get something good for his team,” Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin told reporters. “He just gives you that confidence. He is who he is. He is a great player and he made great plays for them down the stretch. He made two big buckets to get them a win.”

With the game knotted up at 103 with 28 seconds remaining, Nash decided to call his own number instead of setting up his teammates as he often does a game after drilling two clutch jumpers in Sacramento to put the Suns up nine and essentially put the game away with 4:39 remaining.

Although he is not known for taking and making a lot of crunch time shots as he rarely goes into hero ball mode like so many other superstars, Nash got the lead-footed Al Jefferson to switch onto him on a pick and roll, continued to drive left and then executed a hard jump stop left to create space for a beautiful 17-foot jumper that did not hit the rim.

After Paul Millsap drove past Frye and found an open Jefferson under the rim for the tying basket, the Suns called Michael Redd’s number as the veteran had been hot tonight. Redd drove baseline but when he was double teamed he kicked it back out to Nash with just under five seconds remaining as the Utah defense scrambled to bottle Two Time up.

That did not happen as Nash somehow skirted past two defenders to take an off-balanced runner 17 feet from the hoop, which of course found the bottom of the net as well with 1.7 seconds remaining. Nash sauntered off the court with the look of a cold-blooded assassin on his face as teammates rushed to congratulate him.

“We ran a play to get Channing a shot and then Michael a shot and neither of them got it,” Nash said. “The ball kind of fumbled to me. I was able to get Millsap, I think, off his feet and I was able to lean in and just make one. I knew we didn’t have a ton of time, but I didn’t have to rush. I saw Gortat open under the basket, but I didn’t want to mess around with it.”

The Suns then held their breath as C.J. Miles hoisted a potential game-winning 3 from the corner that Millsap tipped it in yet the Suns were finally able to exhale and celebrate as the ball was clearly in his hands when the buzzer went off.

Phoenix seemed to have this game won when Frye banked in an off balanced 26-foot fadeaway to beat the shot clock buzzer and put the Suns up 103-98 with 1:06 remaining.

Yet the Jazz came right back as they had all game with a quick five points capped by a Jefferson jump shot and highlighted by Millsap picking Nash’s pocket.

The final flurry mirrored a chaotic game that saw every quarter played within two points with some big runs in between (the Suns led by nine in the second quarter and 10 midway through the fourth but the Jazz fought back every time).

The Suns’ bench was always in the middle of their runs as each reserve posted a positive +/- and each starter a negative one. Every backup played well tonight, and I cannot remember too many times that has happened this year.

Redd took over the lead scoring role off the pine with 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting a night after chipping in 16 in Sacramento. He was not bashful and his hot scoring night helped the Suns open up leads with Robin Lopez locking down the paint defensively and grabbing seven boards in 18 minutes.

Markieff Morris seemed to be everywhere in the first half when he scored all 11 of his points and provided a bundle of activity and Sebastian Telfair’s seven-point, two-assist fourth quarter put Phoenix in position to benefit from Nash’s heroics.

“It was huge,” Redd said of Phoenix’s bench play. “Again, it was a team win and we just try to pick up the slack with Grant not around. We just try to elevate our games. It was a great win, we just need to keep doing it.”

Redd’s bench scoring is so vital, especially with Shannon Brown in the starting lineup, because there are not many natural scorers in that reserve unit. When Redd can be that main second unit guy and with the rest of the bench players such solid defenders, all of a sudden you get a night like tonight when the bench won the Suns a critical road game.

To Gentry, the playoffs have already begun for Phoenix, but a win like this puts the Suns much closer to that goal.

The victory clinched the season series over the Jazz with one game still remaining on the penultimate night of the season in Utah. With the Suns now a half game ahead of the Jazz, that tiebreaker very well may come in play.

Phoenix now sits all alone in ninth place in the West and with the Nuggets inexplicably dropping a game in New Orleans tonight, the Suns trail both Houston and Denver by a mere one game for a playoff spot. They will face the Nuggets twice more and the Rockets once before the season ends, so those playoff spots are very much up for grabs for a Suns team that moved two games over .500 tonight for the first time all season.

“I think to be over .500 right now we’ve overachieved,” Nash said. “We are gaining confidence and we believe that we can keep winning. The spirit is good. Guys are sticking together and playing hard. When we were 12-19 it could have gone the other way. Obviously we hung together. The coaches have been phenomenal. We’ve stuck with it.

“We played hard and persevered and we are being rewarded for fighting hard.”

And 1

Grant Hill will represent the professional game as one of three winners of “The Mannie Jackson – Basketball’s Human Spirit Award.” He will be recognized on Sept. 6 during a lead up to the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremonies in Springfield, Mass.

According to a release, award winners must embrace “the core values of the game through hard work, dedication, and resilience; striving to continuously improve the community they serve, and making an ongoing commitment to others.  Beyond the game, award winners must reflect the values of Mannie Jackson’s life-long mission to overcome obstacles and challenge the status quo, while taking responsibility for personal actions and seeking the highest standard of excellence.”

Chauncey Billups and Samuel Dalembert have previously won the award. UConn head coach Jim Calhoun and Dr. Richard Lapchick, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics In Sport founder and director, will be honored this year with Hill as well.

“It’s a tremendous honor because of the award and what it stands for,” Hill told The Arizona Republic.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Bench · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap · Steve Nash

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 neurotic steve nash fan // Apr 5, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Whew!!! Game of the year so far. So many ups and downs. Nash is the best.

    best thing about the game: Sebastian and the bench mob coming up big

    worst thing about the game: Scott Williams. Why cant EJ call every game?

  • 2 Tony // Apr 5, 2012 at 12:27 am

    I’m still so excited after that amazing Suns win! Best win of the season for the Suns.

    It’s unfair that Nash doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his clutch play more often. Being clutch is not only predicated on scoring but that seems to be the only facet people pay attention to. Nash is not a scorer by trait, being a playmaker is where he excels in doing. He doesn’t get the credit for setting guys up in the 4th quarter partly because outside of Nash, the team doesn’t have a consistently clutch player. Gortat in particular, seems to crumble in 4th quarters. It may be that he’s not used to being such a focal point in 4th quarters and the added pressure gets to him, but for whatever reason, he has to be better in those moments especially at just catching the ball.

  • 3 PennyAnd1 // Apr 5, 2012 at 3:45 am

    I just love that 2nd unit with Redd, Telfair, Lopez, Childress, and Morris…,especially if Redd coordinates the offense.

    Damn, Nash seems like he still getting better as the games goes on…That guy is a freak!

  • 4 steve // Apr 5, 2012 at 8:58 am

    @Tony -

    I think you’re right about Gortat shying away from the biggest moments, and it really needs to change. Every time he has an opportunity in a clutch moment or in a statement game, he seems to come up flat. I don’t say that to minimize his effect on this team. Obviously, without a center of Gortat’s quality, the Suns wouldn’t be in the race for a playoff spot. However, if Gortat had been able to be “the man” and close out some of those fourth quarters we have let slip away, we would be talking about the Suns fighting for home court…

    Side note, I listened to KTAR a bit yesterday afternoon as I was driving (I rarely get to listen to those morons in the afternoon), and they were continuously throwing out the idea that three years is too much for Steve Nash. Why settle for three more years of mediocrity with Steve? It’s been nice, but fighting for the 8th seed just isn’t enough. Blah blah blah blah blah. I couldn’t help but laugh. Why are these two conclusions supposedly foregone when talking about Nash?

    1. Moving on from Nash is the only way things can get better.
    2. If we stick with Nash, we will continue to see the same results.

    Neither one of those make any sense, and I simply can’t believe (well, I can believe, actually. People in the media, especially radio, are paid to be inflammatory and opinionated) that neither one of those idiots realized that. I’ve been on the “Get Rid of Nash” bandwagon for 3-4 years, not because I don’t believe he’s an amazing talent and one of the more special players the NBA has seen, but rather because I believe defense is the key to winning championships, and I don’t believe a Steve Nash-led team will ever win one. As long as Steve Nash is in Phoenix, it will be HIS team. He might go win one in Miami, but that will never be Nash’s team.

    1. Moving on from Nash guarantees nothing. There is never a guarantee except for the fact that there will always be complainers and there will always be doubters.
    2. If the Suns stick with Nash, I would bet they WON’T continue to see the same results. The majority of Steve Nash’s seasons have ended in the playoffs, and often times in the later rounds. I think it’s a safer bet to say that better results should be expected with Nash at the helm.

    And three years isn’t too long. He’s playing better than any 38-year-old ever has in the history of the game, and he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. I know he will slow down eventually, but I think he’s going to remain highly effective until at least 40, and I think he could play at a high level until 43 or 44. His shot isn’t going to leave him. His vision isn’t going to leave him. Those two skills alone could carry him well into his 40′s.

    Anyway, sorry for the poorly organized diatribe. Those radio goons just irked me with their stupidity. There are plenty of reasons to get rid of Steve Nash, but they didn’t touch on any of them.

  • 5 Zak // Apr 5, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I love Gortat but at best he will probably always be someone else’s “Robin”, not Batman. A great part of the team but not the “go-to” guy. If the Suns can actually find another go-to guy I think that Gortat will be an even better player. Remember that he’s been a career back-up until coming to the Suns and going from that to “the guy” may just be too much pressure too soon. I do think he’ll continue to improve though.

    This was a great win though. I hope the Suns can pull it off again in Denver tomorrow night. Although Denver is leading the NBA in team scoring, they’re also 29th in points allowed which makes me think it might just become a shootout style game. Hopefully the Suns will have a hot shooting night.

  • 6 Al // Apr 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

    This season is just Redd’s opportunity to get back in NBA shape. He seems to be playing well as of late, but I still feel like he is at 85-90%. Wouldn’t mind seeing him back in a Suns uniform next season at 3-4 million with a second year option.
    As for Gortat, the guy really needs to improve his ball handling. Did you guys see Earl Watson block his pass in the far corner and send it out of bounds? I agree that Gortat seems to crumble in the 4th quarter and that he is more of a “Robin” than a batman for the team. Suns always seem to make the last few minutes of every game interesting by committing 3 turnovers in the last few minutes of a game. I am pretty sure that Gortat committed his 7th or 8th turnover in the last few minutes of a close game. Nash even commented on it:
    “I saw Gortat open under the basket, but I didn’t want to mess around with it.”
    Steve seemed to fear another Gortat turnover or missed free throws so he took the shot himself. I may be exaggerating, but I think Suns should pursue Brook Lopez or Hibbert in the offseason.

  • 7 steve // Apr 5, 2012 at 11:55 am

    @Al

    Neither of those guys would be an improvement over Gortat. They would be downgrades. The only way I’d go for that is if another nice piece was packaged in there, but there’s no realistic way I can think of with either of those teams to make the salaries work.

    I think shipping Gortat out should be considered AFTER the possibility of signing a true go-to guy is exhausted. Gortat is a fantastic piece to a winning puzzle. The Suns are just missing that corner piece to build everything else around (unless you like to start puzzles in the middle… then that analogy makes no sense).

  • 8 Jose // Apr 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Is it just my imagination or does somebody else spots Nash’s excited face in the picture coming with the fact that he doesn’t only make everybody around him better offensively but that now also has to be the team’s closer? The front office really has some work to do during the next offseason.

  • 9 Scott // Apr 5, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I think when Nash said he saw Gortat under the basket but didn’t want to mess around with it, the idea was that there was plenty of time for Nash to put up a shot, but maybe not enough time for the added complication of a pass to Gortat and have Gortat put it up, as a fumble can always occur. So rather than risk that, Steve took the shot himself.

    If, however, Nash had been struggling to clear himself of defensive pressure, it would have been better to throw the pass to Gortat, because the clock would have favored that move.

    So I don’t believe Nash was slighting Gortat at all.

  • 10 Zak // Apr 5, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I agree with Scott. His statement wasn’t slight on Gortat but rather a statement that he knew the clock was winding down and felt it was better to take the shot himself rather than attempt a pass inside and hope that Gortat could get a shot off before the clock ran out.

    Remember that Nash’s shot went in with only 1.7 seconds left in the game! Unless Gortat was in position to put up a shot almost immediately, the game clock might have run out and we would have had an overtime game. Better to take a 17 foot runner (especially if you’re Steve Nash) with the clock running out with the game already tied. The worst that could have happened is a miss and an overtime game. To make an extra pass without knowing for sure that your teammate had enough time to get off a shot before the clock ran out… not a great idea.

  • 11 Jason A. // Apr 5, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    I was watching on NBA League Pass and it was the Jazz feed. You wouldn’t believe how ignorant their announcers are! They were talking about how the Suns play no defense and all they want to do is run. About how their bench “is not talented.” That without question, Stockton was the better player (MVPs?) over Nash. Those are just three examples…

    They were very disrespectful. And by the end it was Nash and the bench that killed them. Fitting.

  • 12 neurotic steve nash fan // Apr 5, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    @ jason….. Ha! I love it. So fitting. Ya when I here other teams announcers it really reminds me how lucky we are here in the valley with Eddie Johnson. (and as much as I hate on Scott Williams, hes still better than an old stuffy white dude)

    And if youre a baseball fan, the gap is even bigger. Sutton and Grace are the best duo and its not even close.

  • 13 KeZ // Apr 6, 2012 at 2:29 am

    I was on the Jazz feed as well……man they where hatin big time! Matt Harpring…..really!?

    Btw, best win of the season so far.

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