Your Phoenix Suns(9-15) have won two straight games by beating the Utah Jazz(13-11) at home on Friday evening by the final score of 99-84. What a shocking turn of events after 7 straight losses and it the Suns were headed for the NBA abyss that had been occupied by the likes of the Charlotte Bobcats the last season or so. But these Suns bounced back behind Jared Dudley’s season high 22 points, Dudley also chipped in 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
“We got a lot of turnovers and long rebounds,” Dudley said. “When you are not taking the ball from out of bounds, you can run a little bit more. I thought we had more of an aggressive mindset.”
The Suns were on top of their game right out of the gates as they took a 34-22 lead after the 1st quarter behind Goran Dragic who scored 10 of his 17 points in the opening period. The Suns led by as much as 20 in the 1st half after a Jared Dudley lay-up with 3:33 left in the 2nd quarter but Utah closed the quarter on a 6-0 however the Suns had an 56-42 advantage going into the 2nd half.
The Jazz were led on the evening by their versatile forward Paul Millsap who recorded 12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists along with a steal and a block. Millsap scored 6 points in the 3rd quarter and his lay-up with 4:01 to go in the 3rd shrunk what was once a 20 point lead, the Suns led only 65-61. The Suns would close the 3rd quarter on a 12-4 run and kept the Jazz at bay as they led 77-65 heading into the final period of play.
Utah began the 4th quarter strong by scoring 5 points in the opening minute of the 4th quarter as they closed in on the Suns 70-77 after a Gordon Hayward free throw but the Suns responded with what would ultimately be a game breaking 16-4 run which began with a ferocious dunk by old man Jermaine O’Neal and capped off by a O’Neal jumper and the Suns led 91-74 with 6:03 left in the game; O’Neal recorded 7 points and 3 boards off the bench.
From that point on the Suns had the game in their hands and the Jazz never got close. After the game Paul Millsap took a shot at the Suns defense and this is what he had to say “I don’t think their defense is that great, to be honest with you,” Millsap said. “I feel like we didn’t execute as well as we’re supposed to. We had some open looks that didn’t go down and our offense was just real stagnant.” Seem like there’s a bit of bitterness there Mr. Millsap; objectively speaking, he’s right, the Suns defense is awful but it has been taking a turn for the better over the last two games.
Let’s give credit where credit is due, the Suns played with high energy and aggressiveness right out of the gates. Millsap is right, Utah did seem stagnant on both ends of the court, but the Suns were the better team last night, that much is imminent. The Suns bench not only matched the level of play the Jazz bench brought to the table but outperformed them as the Suns bench outscored Utah’s 38-33.
Marcin Gortat also got a little bit of redemption on Friday evening as he recorded 12 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks; this is Gortat’s first double-double in the last 6 games. Gortat totaled 31 double-doubles last season, this season he’s only got 6 under his belt through 24 games.
The Suns will enjoy their 5-day home stand as they will be in Phoenix all the way up til next Wednesday and they will host the Kings on Monday followed by the Bobcats on Wednesday before heading out to the Rose Garden in Portland to take on the Trail Blazers. If the Suns are serious about turning the season around, the next two games are nothing short of must win for the Suns.