The Phoenix Suns lost 103-88 to the Utah Jazz with a tanking strategy that ended up working. Management for the Suns gave point guard Goran Dragic the day off, even after he warmed up for the game, so that he could rest and his absence would give rookies Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett more playing time.
This is an obvious tactic, because why would Dragic need any rest? Phoenix had only played two games in the last week where Dragic played 33 and 38 minutes and Phoenix doesn’t have anything to save their “star” for this season. His average for the season is 33 minutes per game and the longer stint of 38 minutes was because the game was close and Dragic had it going offensively.
According to ESPN, this is what was said before Wednesday’s game about Dragic sitting.
“We’re just kind of shutting him down,” Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter said before the game. “He’s been playing a whole lot of minutes and we’re going to give him a break periodically through these last couple of games. If you watched him come out of games, he’s looked like he’s been in a brawl.”
While it’s nice that they are thinking of Dragic’s health, if that’s not tanking, then I don’t know what is.
In possibly an attempt to show they weren’t “tanking”, Phoenix’s backup center Jermaine O’Neal (in the words of The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro) “decided to give it a go” after missing two games with a calf injury. He only played 16 minutes.
The game was really close the first several minutes, but once Utah took control, Phoenix never had the lead again even though they got close a couple times.
In a winning effort, the Jazz had Al Jefferson and Gordon Hayward go for 25 points apiece. Jefferson also had nine rebounds, while their point guard Mo Williams almost had a double-double with eight points and 10 assists. Paul Millsap and Randy Foye both added 12 points as the Jazz kept pace with the Los Angeles Lakers, who beat Minnesota Wednesday, in the race for the eighth Western Conference playoff spot.
For the Suns, Wesley Johnson was efficient on the offensive side of the ball. The Syracuse product scored 22 points on 8-16 shooting and added 3 steals. Luis Scola had 20 points, while Markieff as a starter and Jared Dudley as a reserve both added 10 points.
What was impressive was Marshall’s 13 assists in his first start as a professional basketball player. He also added seven points in the loss. After being bumped up on the point guard depth chart, Garrett scored eight points in only 14 minutes as the back-up floor general.
In off-season draft news, Cleveland unfortunately lost to the Boston Celtics at the very last second, because of a Jeff Green layup. With that and the Suns’ loss to Utah, the teams are practically tied for the third-worst record in the league (the Suns have one more win and loss).
Phoenix has to run home so they can play the Sacramento Kings Thursday, while the Jazz have until Friday when they play the Trailblazers in Portland.