PHOENIX – If this were in any of two New York City boroughs, this would’ve been panic time. The Phoenix Suns’ 112-104 home loss reeked of poor effort and a nonchalant approach to facing the now 3-15 Utah Jazz.
The Suns weren’t engaged early and throughout. Utah made them pay, and unlike the Knicks or Nets, veteran clubs with two large payrolls, Phoenix can cite youth for the gaps in the effort.
Or maybe not.
Reading the box score, Jeff Hornacek wondered why the Suns had surrendered 112 points on 51 percent shooting to a team that averaged 90 points per game and was only shooting in the low 40s coming into U.S. Airways Center on Saturday.
“Just shows they just come out and thought they were going to outscore them,” Hornacek said of his players. “You can never give a team easy shots, easy buckets early in the game. That usually transfers up throughout.
“They don’t want to listen to it,” Hornacek added. “Coaches are telling them they’ve got to be ready. That’s what happens.”
That is a loss for a team that is now apparently struggling to handle surprising success. Channing Frye laid into his team as well, saying the Suns weren’t “emotionally invested” in the loss.
Utah hit 9-for-18 from the three-point line – Hornacek said the three-point defense “half-challenged” the Jazz – and scored 20 points off of a reasonable 13 turnovers. It wasn’t the timeliness of Phoenix’s miscues that did it in, Hornacek said, taking another look at the box score and letting out a harumph when he read that the Suns allowed 34 fourth-quarter points.
It’s frustrating even more than the Suns have wins and losses against the league’s elite that showed what a full effort looks like.
“We can’t play great against San Antonio, Portland and Oklahoma City – you know, tough teams, teams that are trying to win championships – and not play to the same level with a team with Utah’s record,” Frye said. “Tip your hats off to Utah. They took advantage of us. They just got into the paint, made threes and just executed their offense. We let them.”
The question of the game being a back-to-back wasn’t asked directly, but it was clear what any Suns coach or player would have said if it was. The 30-year-old Frye, who scored 17 points, played 33 minutes and said he felt fine. The Suns’ young legs should be able to finish strongly.
Starting fast and going fast wasn’t there either.
“This is the third time in a row a bigger team has (scored more fastbreak points),” Hornacek said after Phoenix lost that battle 17-13. “When Goran doesn’t have the ball, we don’t push it.”
Of course, it’s hard to push the ball when there aren’t stops. But in the last several games, the Suns haven’t played with a consistent effort — even in Friday night’s victory at Utah when the Jazz made a late push. That’s the most concerning thing for Phoenix moving forward.
If youth is the excuse, Hornacek is hoping the Suns learn from it quickly. That said, the fast start to the season is making it lazy to pull the youth card at all.
“We went through the same thing with Sacramento,” Hornacek said. “You think you’d learn your lesson the first time. Obviously they didn’t.”