Preview: Phoenix Suns (33-23) vs. Utah Jazz (20-36)

Posted by on February 26th, 12:00 pm

Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSA

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The Phoenix Suns head into Salt Lake City needing a win, desperately.

After losing two games in a row, the Suns have dropped to eighth in the tight Western Conference and sit just a game and half up on the surging Memphis Grizzlies. The two game losing streak has Suns coach Jeff Hornacek searching for answers.

Playing the Jazz may provide those answers, but they are a team that you can’t take lightly. Just ask the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, two teams the Jazz have managed to beat this season. Since January, Utah has put together a 9-12 record, a more respectable mark than their overall mark.

For Phoenix, it is going to take a team effort to reverse the fortunes of the past two nights and to leave Utah with a victory. Let’s look at some questions heading into tonight’s game.

What’s the word on Goran Dragic’s health?

Last night the Dragon had an awkward fall and seemed to have maybe sprained his ankle. He was clearly bothered by it and left shortly after and went into the trainer’s room. He did come back into the game before fouling out 3:46 left. When he picked up his sixth foul you could just sense the Suns were not going to win that game.

“He obviously can make some plays for us,” Hornacek said. “I think the momentum had swung prior to him fouling out anyway. He twisted his ankle and he wanted to come back and give it a shot. In hindsight, maybe I should have left him off of it. That group that was going was doing pretty decent. It’s tough when he goes down.”

The Suns need him to play tonight and be healthy or tonight could get ugly for the purple and orange.

Reverse trends

Two trends have stuck out to me the past two games. One is the obvious, blowing fourth-quarter leads of 11 (Houston) and eight (Minnesota) points. The other may not be quite as obvious, but is equally disturbing. Patrick Beverley and Shabazz Muhammad have put up career highs of 20 apiece in the recent two games, but more importantly, they have had career highs thanks to big fourth quarters.

“If you’re playing good teams and you don’t buckle down in that fourth quarter and try to guard your own man and expect help, that’s when you get in trouble,” Hornacek said. “The good teams pick you apart.”

If the Suns have a fourth quarter lead, it will be interesting to see if they can lock the game down and not let a guy have another career night.

Does Gordon Hayward get going?

Hayward is arguably the biggest weapon for the Jazz offense averaging 15.8 points per game on nearly 40 percent shooting. He is coming off a poor eight-point performance against the Boston Celtics and will be looking to have a rebound game. The Suns have done a good job defensively on him holding him under 18 points in their three meetings this season. Look for the Suns and P.J. Tucker especially to try to shut him down once again.

And 1

Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated wrote a feature on the rise of Goran Dragic and Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski. If anything, read it because it includes an anecdote of Dragic going through a Slovenian marriage custom involving a horse and carriage to ask his wife’s brother for her hand in marriage.

Kevin Zimmerman contributed to this piece

Jeffrey Sanders

Jeffrey Sanders is a ValleyoftheSuns staff writer currently working toward his degree in broadcast journalism at Arizona State University. He is also involved in on-campus groups, such as the Blaze 1330 AM and CronkiteSports.com.

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Tags: Goran Dragic · Phoenix Suns Preview · Utah Jazz

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Voqar // Feb 26, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    The last two games have been fairly brutal. Entertaining at times, but the slow starts suck, lack of focus sucks (defensive lapses, moronic turnovers). The letting off the wall players have career nights is more reminiscent of old suns team and was always annoying.

    And of course, ultimately losing games that should be won really sucks.

  • 2 Al // Feb 26, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    There are no easy wins for Phoenix. Only surprise sweeps or disappointing losses. Team is reverting back to the old style of collapsing in the 4th and giving opposing bench players career nights. Need to close out games. Suns better fix the turnover issues or risk being out of the playoff picture by end of next week.

  • 3 Anonymous // Feb 26, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Wouldn’t be surprised if they lost this game as well.

  • 4 sunsn7 // Feb 26, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Should be an easy win tonight.

    Don’t say it Hawki! :D

  • 5 GoSuns // Feb 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    I think we’re kinda over reacting, in the last post Scott brought a great point that our team outside a player or two are inexperienced and have not played this much in their careers so far, our team has not reached its ceiling yet and is going through some growing pains, we’ll be alright

  • 6 Al // Feb 26, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    By the looks of it, this will not be a good week for the team. Dragic seems to probably be out for this game; so, it will probably be an L unless the rest of players step up against a half court offense. Memphis plays the Lakers today so they will most likely win and be half a game from the 8th seed. I hope am wrong…

  • 7 EBJM // Feb 26, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Growing pains? Teams have discovered the Suns fatal flaws and have made adjustments. Suns are hardly inexperienced, the guys who are don’t play.

    Jazz are built to defeat Phoenix. Look for Derrick Favors and Enes Kantor to take advantage of Frye and Plumlee. Haywood, Burke,and Burks all match up well with Phoenix.

    As long as Hornacek plays Frye too much the Suns will slide right out of the playoffs.

  • 8 Dave:f32 // Feb 26, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    For as far as the Suns have come this season they really arent that far along in development. Still an inexperienced young group of unproven vets.

    Moral victories are reserved for losers since the whole point if playing games us to win.

    If the season were only 41 games… But its not. The season games are played to position for playoff relevance and status, and in development of team chemistry, adjustments in their schemes and strategies.

    Hornecek can only do so much before the personnel realizes they are understaffed. I wanted this Suns team to get a viable PF veteran to provide inside post presence.

    Until that happens, my Suns playoff hopes and chances go out the door, regardless if E-Bled comes back this season. I hope im wrong. Go Suns!

  • 9 EBJM // Feb 26, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    The average age of the Suns current eight man rotation is 27 years old. Just because they have played better than anyone expected hardly infers that the have a very high ceiling.

    The Jazz have a higher ceiling based on your rationale. Their core of their starting five are only 22 years old. Those kids are currently augmented by veterans Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams out of necessity.

    Jazz will add two more youngsters this summer, a top seven pick and the 2nd around #23.

    They fit your description of the Suns more than the Suns.

  • 10 Dave:f32 // Feb 26, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Looks like this one is baked. Jazz stuck a fork in them. Blowout City in the 4th qtr… Major garbage time.

    Oooh ooo tank tank tank for Julius Randle?!!!!

  • 11 Utah Jazz 109, Phoenix Suns 86 -- Gored without Goran // Feb 26, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    […] Now to analyze Jeff Sanders’ pregame points of emphasis. […]

  • 12 sunsn7 // Feb 26, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    No more “easy win” proclamations.

    That was UGLY. Sheesh.

  • 13 BCrayZ // Feb 27, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    EBJM is a chicken shit.

    Will not respond to my challenge game.

    This is because he is all talk & has no walk.

    Will he continue to find refuge, like a little girl, behind his mommy’s computer where he can hide?

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