Time: 7 p.m. MST
TV: FSAThe 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.
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.
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