Utah Jazz 94, Phoenix Suns 81 -- Coming up short

Jared Dudley's breakaway dunk was one of the few highlights in the Suns' loss to the Utah Jazz. (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images)

Jared Dudley’s breakaway dunk was one of the few highlights in the Suns’ loss to the Utah Jazz. (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images)

A familiar script played out in Salt Lake City Saturday night, just as it had the night before. But unlike last night’s history-making comeback, Phoenix could not come all the way back, succumbing to the Utah Jazz, 95-84.

Down by 22 points late in the third quarter, the Suns went on a 19-2 run to cut the lead to five, but that was as close Phoenix would come. The Suns struggled to overcome some disappointing performances from their stars and simply did not have enough gas in the tank to work their comeback magic two nights in a row.

Coach Alvin Gentry, speaking to reporters, said, “We keep digging ourselves holes and then try to dig our way out of it, and you can’t do that, especially on the road. I don’t think we did a very good job of executing and we didn’t shoot the ball well at all. When the game was on the line we stopped them eight out of 10 times and we got one basket in the process. You can’t win playing that way; we have to do a better job of executing and finishing plays.”

Utah’s size was too much for the Suns throughout the game. Big Al Jefferson showed once again why he’s the most dominant post player in the Western Conference. He scored 27 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and shot 60 percent from the floor. Jefferson’s 10 first-quarter points were a big reason why the Suns were down double digits early. It didn’t matter who the Suns threw at him, be it Gortat or Scola, Jefferson was able to get a great shot every time he caught the ball. When the Jazz needed to end their fourth-quarter drought, they went to Jefferson on three different possessions and came away with a bucket every time.

The Suns may have been able to weather Big Al’s big night if not for the rest of Utah’s talented frontcourt. Paul Millsap was almost as effective as Jefferson, scoring 18 points while grabbing 13 boards. Derrick Favors chipped in with 10 points and three blocks, including two on Gortat. Even Enes Kanter scored some impressive buckets inside. Ultimately, the stats tell the tale. The Suns were outrebounded 52-37. They gave up 52 points in the paint. Phoenix had no answer for the Jazz’s nightmare lineup of bigs.

The player most likely to be haunted by that nightmare is undoubtedly Marcin Gortat. In a performance that was very reminiscent of last season’s playoffs-or-bust game against Utah, Gortat crumbled once again against the size and athleticism of the Jazz. Marcin was 0-for-6 from the field and played only 30 minutes. He was glued to the bench as Phoenix mounted its furious yet star-crossed comeback attempt. Gortat has been impressively assertive on both ends this season, but he still has the propensity to have no-show games like this one, especially when facing tough, physical competition.

Another Suns’ player who was basically a no-show was Michael Beasley. Though he made some good plays during the Suns’ late-game run, he looked lost in the first half. Every time Michael caught the ball, he was 25 feet from the basket. Instead of penetrating, he took out of rhythm jump shots off. It’s a testament to the depth and resolve of Phoenix’s roster that the score was close considering the duo of Beasley and Gortat made only three field goals.

The Suns’ incredible resolve came from their crunch-time lineup of Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic, Sebastian Telfair, P.J. Tucker, and Luis Scola. This group held Utah completely scoreless for six minutes of the fourth quarter. They negated Utah’s massive size advantage by pushing the ball up the floor and making the big fellas gasp for air. If there is any positive to be taken from this game for Phoenix, it’s that this lineup is very dependable and isn’t afraid of anything.

This was Jared Dudley’s best game of the season. He scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and he, for the first time this year, looked like Old Jared. He was amped and aggressive on defense. He was confident and mobile on offense. He hit 2-of-3 from downtown, and got several easy buckets by moving without the ball. He even got his first dunk of the year. Despite the loss, Dudley should be able to build on this performance as the Suns will definitely need more games like this from him.

Also impressive was Sebastian Telfair. Had the Suns completed another big comeback win, the headline for this recap would have been: “From Bassy to classy.” It is clear now that Sebastian is the Suns’ most unflappable player. He is never afraid of the moment and is quickly becoming a reliable scorer/energy player off the bench. After an offseason in which it was unclear what his role would be this season, the Suns must count themselves lucky to have Bassy. The combo of he and Dragic in the backcourt is becoming a staple of the Suns’ rotation because their speed, scoring, and distributing abilities are incredibly hard for any opponents’ guards to handle. They’re reminiscent of Nash and Dragic playing together. In this game, Bassy and Goran were able to finish more effectively at the rim than Gortat because of their speed and determination.

The Suns’ effort over the final 14 minutes was valiant, but the Jazz simply had too much going for them. Their home crowd is incredibly loud and considered one of if not the best in the NBA. The Jazz are a lot like the Seattle Seahawks actually. They are average on the road (the Jazz are 0-4 on the road this year.) But at home, they look like championship contenders. Whether through luck, effort, or both, Utah came up with every loose ball in this game. They also scored as the shot clock expired at least four different times. These are close plays that turn the momentum of a game. The Jazz made the plays, and the Suns did not. Utah was the more disciplined team by far, and that paid off for them in the end.

Impressively, the Jazz won without their leading scorer, Mo Williams, who is suffering from a groin injury. If Utah had gotten any decent guard play on either end of the floor, this game would have been a rout. Utah had no one to guard Goran Dragic, who followed up last night’s strong performance, with 13 points and six assists in 39 minutes. It would have been more, but Dragic did not get to the free throw line at all. The exhaustion of this hard-fought back-to-back took quite a toll on him.

Dragic and the rest of the Suns have only one day to rest before the lighting-fast Denver Nuggets come to Phoenix Monday night. They’ll need to spend that time contemplating how and why they keep falling into these early holes and how they can come out faster moving forward.

Tags: Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap Utah Jazz

  • Fan in Chi Town

    Didn’t see the game, but from what I saw on Gametime, it looked like the Suns were just tired from the night before and travelling. I didn’t select a victory tonight.

    Also, Brown was 1 of 9 they said…..ouch

  • DBreezy

    Well the good news, at least for me, is that the folks at league pass have once again failed to get my broadband and mobile accounts activated in a timely fashion. So since I was out of town this week, I watched the Bobcats and Cavs games today before the Jazz one, making it a 2-1 day.

    Familiar themes in all of the games, but they’ve fought hard as most of Alvin’s teams have averting what could very easily have been a 5 game losing streak. I’m interested to see how that fight plays out over the next 15 games or so, as they’re not strong on either side of the ball right now. Takes a lot of energy physically and mentally for them right now.

  • Scott

    Probably if the Suns hadn’t been so tired when they went small toward the end of the game, they’d have made their shots and won.

    If Gentry had more faith in some of his deeper reserves, he might have got more energy. Diante Garrett should be able to serve as a combo guard to rest Telfair and Dragic, assuming Marshall isn’t ready.

  • shazam

    totally agree scott..this has to be a hustle team every night..marshall isnt ready on many levels..im not sure he will ever be but diante is awesome…im starting to see the beasley i was afraid of…pencil him in for 22 minutes a game very soon

  • Elviro (Italy)

    I am disappointed, bad beat!
    we can not go every time under a lot of points at game start …
    something does not work …
    I saw the highlights and I felt like a performance of jazz …
    defense was a butter …
    the attack does not exist!
    mah …
    mmmmmhhhhhhh ……… I’m starting to think the worst ….

  • Scott

    During the game I looked at Dragic and how tired he was, and how the responsibility was on him to keep making his shots because he was the only reliable scorer, and I thought, “Dragic … now you see the Suns as Nash probably saw them.” ;)

    Which brings to mind two things: 1) be careful what you wish for (Dragic hoped to follow after Nash), and 2) Dragic appears to be under pressure to find ways to get his team to score, and his response to this could cause him over time to develop a more Nash-like talent of making those around him better.

  • http://slapdoghoops.blogspot.com Slap Dog Hoops

    Beasley has especially been a disappointment. I expected him to have a breakout season, but he has but rather flat thus far. Hopefully he will pick it up as the season progresses.

  • DBreezy


    I’m sure Goran feels like Nash did, but I think he saw it in preseason as well. He made comments then about the passing lanes/spacing not being there similar to what Nash would often say. With the team shooting 42%, 20th in offensive efficiency, while being 28th in defensive efficiency and points allowed that pressure isn’t likely to relieve itself anytime soon. While Gentry will obviously have to find ways not to wear him out physically, he doesn’t seem bothered by it mentally so I do think this will ultimately be a positive experience for him.


    I think Beasley’s shooting percentages should ultimately return to at least his career average of 45%. He’s been uneven, especially on D, but I do like some of the things he’s trying to do. He’s trying to move the ball, he’s working on the glass, he’s made some hustle plays lately, and I liked seeing him get in the ear of Markieff. He’s obviously got to get better on D, attack the hoop and get to the line more, and make J’s. He reminds me a lot of a smaller Lamar Odom. Immense talent, high pick, but a guy who isn’t naturally comfortable with the role of being the man. Lamar is longer which helps him on the glass and is a better defender when motivated although he wasn’t before he met Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.

    Both have had similar off-court issues, but Beasley works a lot harder on his game and body than Odom ever has, save his season under Riley in MIA. Odom latest conditioning/motivation issues in DAL and with LAC aren’t exactly a surprise to those who followed him before he joined the Lake Show.

  • Gilberto

    I definitely say the frustration/fatigue in Dragic’s face during the game and felt bad for him. The starting line-up once again didn’t gel right and Gortat got outplayed by the Utah big men. I thought PHX played best both defensively/offensively when Telfair was at PG and Dragic moved over the the 2 spot. It created good match-ups and spaced the floor more effectively than when Dragic was at the 1.

  • bk

    If they continue to loss more, they should think of playing Marshall, Zeller and Garrett more to develop 1 of them to be a role player at least. I give up on W Johnson.

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    What I’m referring to was a look on Dragic’s face near the end of the game that I saw as being like, “I can’t be doing this every night. I’m exhausted. I have to have help.” This is not just about spacing issues, it was like he was discovering his physical limits. It might be a turning point moment where he determines that he’s just got to find new ways to set his guys up better, so he doesn’t work himself to death carrying the scoring load.

    By contrast, Marshall is having difficulties adapting to the NBA because he played with a court full of top talent. All he had to do was bring the ball up the court and dish, and they’d do the rest. Now, in the NBA, that’s not enough for him, as he doesn’t have a court full of All-Stars to throw to. He’s got to work harder to be a scoring threat himself, and harder to make sure his guys really have a play they can make.

  • Anonymous

    I’d rather have Michael Redd than Beasley. Bring redd back.

  • Greg

    I wouldnt be too concerned. we can all point out the negatives, but lets see whats going right so far through 7 games

    Dragic has shown the ability to be a special scorer and he can get to the rim at will when he is confident. he has been a good distributor and has done some impressive things with the basketball. defensively, he seems to be one of the peskiest, active defenders in the league. when he is on, he is a very good player and he will continue to improve as this team develops its offensive identity

    Brown has shown he can take over a game scoring off the bench and he has been much more aggressive taking the ball to the basket, but he will have his streaks of hot and cold. unfortunately, his ability to score off the bench will be a major factor in most games

    Beasley has been inconsistent, but he has shown some flashes as a skilled distributor. When he runs little pick and rolls with scola/gortat it has resulted in some pretty looking passes from beasley. he needs to attack the rim more, thats when he gets to the line and has a chance to find other teammates for shots. he just hasnt found his comfort zone in the offense, this was expected to take time. we havent seen the offensive explosion yet, but for a 2 month stretch in 2010 beasley averaged 23 ppg with 6 boards. i feel beasley will eventually have a stretch of similar success as season progresses and this will go a long way in taking pressure off of Goran

    Scola- shown that he can be a go-to guy on given nights, just wish he would move the ball a little more, ball stops at him alot. but we are getting what we expected

    Gortat- His activity has been impressive on defense with all of the blocked shots and on the rebounding end. however, he will have poor games, the polish hammer gets a little fatigued sometimes and disappears against opposing bigs

    Dudley- He hasnt taken the amount of shots i expected, but at the same time he hasnt been consistent with the 3 yet, he is still a leader and plays spirited defense , but needs to help on the boards a little more

    Tucker- proving to be a very energetic defender and he helps fuel runs, but Gentry may be using him a little much. what he offers with energy/defense is lacking in rebounding and offense

    Telfair- the small ball look with goran and tucker seems to be an effective possibility moving forward, he has been very energetic on defense as well, plays hard

    Morris- awful. i dont know if he just is lacking confidence right now, but i have no positives on Morris so far. its been horrible to watch him play

    Wes Johnson- he will stay where he belongs.

    O’neal- his return to the lineup will help shore up the bench defense a little against other teams bigs, and his return will also aid in a reduction in morris’s minutes. he has been missed