Phoenix Suns 112, Utah Jazz 101 – Hornacek Homecoming

Maybe it was a win against the lowly Utah Jazz, but it was probably a bitter-sweet moment for Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek. The former Jazz legend returned to Salt Lake City on Friday to lead his Suns past the Jazz 112-101 in a game that featured little defense.

The dead-eye shooting head coach saw his team connect on 54.7 percent on the night, an accuracy that only trailed off in a cruising fourth quarter. Through three periods, the Suns shot 65.5 percent and hit 8-of-17 threes to lead Utah, 95-78, before putting the nail in the coffin.

A late push by the Jazz forced Phoenix to close the game out with an unfamiliar lineup of recent days. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe finished on the court together after the latter returned from a shin bruise that kept him from the last six outings. Bledsoe finished with 19 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals in just 27 minutes. And the point guard wasn’t even the leading bench scorer. Markieff Morris played a productive 28 minutes to lead Phoenix with 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field.

How’d the game go according to the questions posed by Ryan Weisert?

Can Goran Dragic keep up his incredible run of play?

That, he can. Dragic got the relief of Bledsoe’s return from a bruised shin on Friday but continued to find Gerald Green acting as his wingman in the starting lineup. The Dragon continued looking like the player who last season peaked at the end of the year despite his team floundering. He forced the issue at the right times, dribbled in circles on pick-and-roll action with the lumbering Utah big men and overmatched rookie Trey Burke trying to force him into mistakes, and finished with 19 points and nine assists.

Bledsoe and Dragic ended up playing the crunch-time minutes with one another, if any minutes in the fourth quarter could be considered such. Phoenix was in cruise control for much of the second half, no matter what the scoreboard read, and it might’ve been one of the more impressive Dragic-Bledsoe combinations despite some more obvious room to grow in terms of their chemistry.

Phoenix got in trouble late in the game and saw a lead that reach 20 points sniff single-digits at times as it settled for jumpers that led to easy points for the Jazz. Now, it’ll be a wonder if Bledsoe and Dragic can finally begin to find some chemistry and comfort between themselves.

Can Phoenix contain Utah’s frontline? Do they need to?

No, but it wasn’t in the way you’d expect. No longer going with a big-big starting lineup of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, the Jazz went with a starting frontcourt of Favors, Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson to seemingly outstretch the Suns’ stretching starting five. Channing Frye didn’t have a great deal of success chasing around Williams, as you’d expect. The former No. 2 pick led Utah with 18 points.

Favors ended the evening with 15 points and four boards, while Kanter struggled off the bench to score six. Phoenix center Miles Plumlee posted his fifth double-double of the season by notching 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Jazz did beat the Suns up on the boards, 39-30, and that was especially surprising since Phoenix was for the most part shooting at a blistering pace. Utah hit the offensive glass to nab 13 boards and score 20 second-chance points for the game.

How much will Phoenix get from the Morris twins?

Markieff Morris scored 13 first-half points but did the most damage in the third quarter. He scored 10 more points in the period, including eight in a row as part of the Suns’ 10-0 run that build their lead to 88-69 with less than three minutes to play in the third.

As is par for the course, he was more than efficient as a player who looked to earn himself deep post position or, when floating, take 15-foot jumpers off ball movement rather than threes or longer twos.

Marcus Morris finished with four points.

  • Sunsn7

    Looks like we have a .500 ballclub in Phoenix

    Nice win but must admit one of college bball’s Big 3 appeal to me, especially when you add him to this current roster…

  • Fan in Chi Town

    I wasn’t able to watch the game today. Can someone please tell me why Bledsoe came off the bench? He had a good game so he obviously wasn’t hobbled. Was it just Horny worrying about chemistry issues?

  • Eric

    Do you really expect a guy to start and play 35 or 40 minutes after missing 2 weeks jeez come on

  • Al

    It’s great having a good GM and coach. Can Hornaceck have a long tenure as Sun’s head coach like Jerry Sloan did with Jazz? I think so. Hornaceck has kept the fast pace tempo, threes, and is improving the bigs offense in the low post. Defense is also getting better. He and his assistants have also helped the shooting form of Miles Plumlee at the FT line…hopefully his % improves 20-30%. Plums seem to have gotten a little bit better at the pick and roll. It’s great having 2 stretch 4′s that allow Dragic and Bledsoe to drive to the rim. Sun’s just need to remember that its a 48 minute game and not collapse after 40 minutes, like usual…

  • foreveris2long

    All road wins are great wins. This team impresses me more each time I watch them play, which includes competitive losses. Great to see Bledsoe back and Dragic continuing to play well. I know the Jazz fans have to be thinking the Jazz hired the wrong coach and I think they are right. I think Coach Horny is an excellent coach for a young team. Let’s complete the 2 game sweep tomorrow.

    DBreezy, saw the second half of Kings game and D.Williams played the 3 spot. He played well but shot an airball near the end of overtime. I think he will do well in Sac town.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    Eric – I appreciate the response, but relax man. I just thought it was odd that he did not start. I didn’t expect him to play 40 minutes. Think of it this way: did Nash ever come off the bench after an injury?

  • Jeremiah

    @Fan in Chi Town

    The team was playing well without him in the lineup so they must have figured that since he wasn’t going to play big minutes it would be best to bring him off the bench. Remember they did the same thing for Dragic’s first game back from his ankle injury. Once Bledsoe is ready for full minutes again I would guess he will be back in the starting lineup.

  • Dave:f32

    I agree w/ Sunsn7! Its great and all that this Phoenix Suns squad is playing .500 ball but thinking about the future….Raaaaaaannnndddllll

    They are at the “just good enough, but not that good enough to win it all” stage.

  • Sunsn7

    I agree with Dave32 about agreeing with me!

  • Dave:f32

    I agree with Sunsn7 about agreeing with me agreeing with him! Touche`

  • Voqar

    IMO the team is better off starting green since he matches up better with typical 2′s. I’m not sold on the two PG lineup as a full time lineup. Both Bledsoe and Dragic are at their best with the ball and neither is really big enough to contain serious 2′s.

    Tough situation for the coaches since both are starters. I also have to wonder if Green will be as productive as a purely bench player.

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  • Jeremiah

    Not sure what the big deal is about Julius Randle. Yeah he looks like he will be a solid NBA player, but I would take Wiggins, Parker and maybe even Gordon over Randle personally.

  • Dave:f32

    I would take Joel Embiid over Wiggins but we are all entitled to wishfully dream for whatever a Phoenix Suns fantasy…

  • Scott

    If the Wiz pick conveys to the Suns this summer, it could be the highest pick the Suns get.

  • HunterSThompson

    “And with the 8th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns select Noah Vonleh, forward – Indiana.”

    Lamar Odom 2.0?

  • HunterSThompson

    Voqar – I think you make a nice point about how Green is used best, and how Dragic/Bledsoe are better off as the primary guy. They both play very aggressively, so having each play 25-30 minutes a night (obviously some overlap) might be best for the team….if they can be convinced to check egos at the door.