April 24, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) and small forward Jared Dudley (3) battle for position with Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) during the second half at Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz defeated the Suns 100-88 to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns (23-48) vs. Utah Jazz (35-36) Preview

This is the game that the Phoenix Suns absolutely need to lose more than any other game the rest of the way. With Utah losing 12 of their last 16 games dating back to the All-Star break, and the Jazz and Dallas Mavericks both only one game back of the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth playoff spot, Phoenix needs to make sure those teams win as many games as possible.

The Suns can gift the men from Salt Lake City a victory as the Jazz host Phoenix tonight.

ESPN certainly thinks that the Jazz can pull out a victory, seeing as they favored Utah by 11 points on their betting line. They can only win if the Suns don’t play very well, which is possible, and in this case, encouraged.

Utah is totally clean on the topic of injuries, which means they should have no excuses when it comes to winning games down the stretch.

The Suns still have Channing Frye out for the season with his enlarged heart, Marcin Gortat out with a Listfranc sprain on his foot. Additionally, the Arizona Republic reports, “O’Neal (calf) is not confident in his ability to take the court Wednesday in Utah. Following Tuesday’s practice, he relayed, “If I still feel the same (tonight), then I won’t play.” Also, Jared Dudley missed a recent game due to flu-like symptoms, but played Sunday against Brooklyn. We’ll see if he plays Wednesday.

Keys to the game: Suns

  • The Suns bigs are going to have trouble defending the frontcourt of Utah with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, so points in the paint is going to be a crucial point of emphasis for Phoenix.
  • Along the same vein, the men in orange are without Gortat, O’Neal and therefore rebounding, especially on the offensive end will be a problem. Phoenix has to attack the glass as a team in order to beat the Jazz.

Keys to the game: Jazz

  • The Jazz need to feed their beasts down low in the post, so look for Jefferson and Millsap to have big games, if Utah wants to win.
  • The Jazz are superior to the team from the desert and if Utah execute the basics of basketball and score more than the Suns then they will win. This is obvious, but also relatively easy considering that Phoenix is 22nd in both points scored per game and points given up to the opposing team per game, making it that much easier for Utah to come out with the victory.

X-Factor!

The Phoenix backcourt is better than Utah’s and the same is true for the Jazz’s frontcourt in comparison to the Suns’, especially with Gortat and O’Neal out. So, if the guards make more of an impact then Phoenix will win, but if the frontcourt can force their will upon the opponents, then Utah will come out victorious.

Match-up to watch:

Al Jefferson versus Luis Scola at the center position. The question here is because Scola is giving up an inch in height and more than 40 pounds in weight, can he keep Jefferson away from the basket without picking up fouls? If he can’t we are doomed (or lucky depending on if you want the Lakers to miss the playoffs so we get our draft pick).

Tags: Basketball NBA Phoenix Suns Sports Utah Jazz

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