Utah Jazz 109, Phoenix Suns 86 -- Gored without Goran

Jeff Hornacek warned his Phoenix Suns that playing like they did on Tuesday night would haunt them against the Utah Jazz.

Defensive breakdowns became the theme of a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, and that carried into the backend of a back-to-back, when Phoenix fell 109-86 at Energy Solutions Arena.

The Suns allowed the Jazz to shoot 56.8 percent and 9-of-18 from three-point range. Like Kevin Love did a night prior against Phoenix, Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward was an assist shy of a triple-double, going for 17 points, 10 boards and nine assists. But along with getting sliced up by the young Jazz’s passing, the Suns also couldn’t buy a basket themselves, hitting 38.8 percent for the game.

It hurt that Goran Dragic was a scratch because of an ankle sprain suffered a night earlier, and backup Ish Smith slid into the starting spot with a solid start. He scored 13 points and added five assists, but it wasn’t the same. Dragic’s dangerous midrange game was sorely missed, and the Jazz were rightfully fine with the undersized Smith attempting shots at the hoop even if he got there.

Smith went 5-for-15 from the floor in a team-high 36 minutes, and backcourt mate Gerald Green didn’t have the open looks from drive-and-kicks that he normally finds with Dragic. Instead, he was forced to score off the bounce himself, something he’s not entirely comfortable doing. He finished with a 6-for-15 shooting performance. Likewise, Channing Frye had a quiet night, scoring seven.

The Suns, already a low-assist team with Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, finished with just 14 assists on the night.

Phoenix was forced to run the offense through the Morris twins, and there were few positive results from that. The twins went 5-for-16 as they and their teammates floundered in their defensive assignments — on the ball and off.

The Suns are clinging to the eighth seed, and now the outside perception hoping for a return of Bledsoe has gone from “when he’s ready” to “as soon as possible.”

Now to analyze Jeff Sanders’ pregame points of emphasis.

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

Dragic suited up for Hornacek and crew but didn’t give it a go. Ish Smith got his first start for the Suns this season and Archie Goodwin ended up playing as a reserve point guard and shooting guard.

Smith starting didn’t give Phoenix the usual change-of-pace punch off the bench, and while Goodwin was relatively safe with the ball, the offenses were stagnant aside from a 25-point first quarter. The Suns didn’t top 22 points in either of the final three quarters.

Like Goodwin’s D-League stint, the assists weren’t there as a point guard, but he did excel in the scoring department, scoring 16 points to go with seven rebounds, and perhaps showing up Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee for the dunk of the night, a poster on top of Jazz center Enes Kanter.

Reverse trends

Could Phoenix reverse two negative trends? Jeff Hornacek’s team had been giving up career performances to role players and those role players — Patrick Beverley and Shabazz Muhammad — had especially been attacking the Suns late in games.

The defense again failed to show up in the first half, and Utah took a 53-44 lead heading into the third quarter thanks to hitting 54 percent of its shots. The accuracy only grew in the second half as Utah pulled away.

A nine-point lead heading to the second-half grew to 14 points heading to the fourth before the Jazz added more hurt to the Suns. Just as Muhammad put in 10 of his 20 points against the Suns in Tuesday’s fourth period, former Suns guard Diante Garrett scored 12 of his career-high 15 against Phoenix during the final 12 minutes.

Does Gordon Hayward get going?

Hayward never really got going in an offensive sense, but he did put in his usual all-around performance that could make him the Suns’ Plan B if Bledsoe for some reason skips town this offseason. It was a few powerful dunks at the rim that illustrated just how poor Phoenix’s defense was on Wednesday.

  • Anonymous

    What else is new. This team should have just tanked since the beginning. Even if they are/were making the playoffs, it would be a first or second round exit anyways.

  • sunsn7

    Tanking? That is soooo 2013!

    What up ERIC B.?!!

  • Kenn K.

    Since you mentioned Hayward as a Plan B Kevin…

    Honestly, I think someone like Hayward in the offseason would be great, with or without (but would especially love with) Bledsoe coming back next season.

    The odds of getting someone on the level of Love, while a better player for sure, are much lower than someone on Hayward’s level.

    Think of it this way:
    PG – E. Bledsoe/I. Smith
    SG – G. Dragic/G. Green/A. Goodwin
    SF – G. Hayward/P.J. Tucker
    PF – C. Frye/Kieff Morris/Marcus Morris
    C – M. Plumlee/A. Len

    (If we bring our major players from this year back)
    Plus still having whatever we can get with those 1st and 2nd rounders this year.

    I actually really like this. At 1-3 we potentially have really-good-to-great/elite-level talent in each spot. At the 4 we have multiple stretch-types to aid spacing, and at 5 we have at worst a good backup C and a recent lottery-level talent.

    Now of course I’d love Love on here more, but until I see trades of that magnitude actually happen I tend to not get my hopes up. (This would be highly exciting though, and help more in terms of matchups since our strengths would be more spread among our team’s size).

    For an example of how it might look if it DID happen though, I’ll use a mock trade from Bill Simmons today.

    MIN gets:
    A. Len (last year’s no. 5 pick), three 2014 first-rounders (from Indy, Washington and Phoenix, all top-12 protected at least) and a protected Minnesota first-rounder that Phoenix already owns

    PHX gets:
    K. Love
    J.J. Barea

    That would make the team potentially look more like this:
    PG – E. Bledsoe/I. Smith/J.J. Barea
    SG – G. Dragic/G. Green/A. Goodwin
    SF – P.J. Tucker
    PF – K. Love/Kieff Morris/Marcus Morris
    C – M. Plumlee/C. Frye
    And only 2nd rounders since all four 1sts would be gone in the trade.

    This would be great and I’d take it in a snap, but it does have weak points.
    1) No improvement at C, though a Plumlee-Love pairing could be as strong as Pekovic-Love
    2) Empty at SF outside of Tucker (could use Green or Marcus Morris, but def. better suited for SG and PF respectively)
    3) No 1st rounders left for the year

    So to summarize: Definitely be glad to get Love despite what it would potentially take, but finding a way to get Hayward to pair with Dragic and Bledsoe plus making something good come from all those draft picks would be a pretty damn good fallback option.

    Thoughts? Rebuttals? Ideas/projections of your own? My eyes and ears are open Kevin

  • Kenn K.

    I can’t believe people are on here talking like a 2nd round playoff exit is the most terrible thing possible…

    Do you NOT remember how much last year sucked? You want more of that for another whole year for a slight chance at what could maybe someday be a star player? If so, look at Cleveland; how’s that type of plan working, even with a player with the talent of Kyrie Irving? Or the Kings even with Cousins?

    Success is so fleeting..we should all just enjoy the awesome surprise this season has brought and hope to see as much winning as we can. Otherwise, what’s the point of being a fan?

  • Rengaw

    If the Suns spin out of control and end up losing more games than they win the rest of the season, I’m still going to look back at this season as one of the very best I have experienced in my 45 years as an NBA fan.

    This team has played hard with a cast of no names who were not intimidated by big names or difficult circumstances and somehow created a chemistry that pulled out victory after victory against the best teams in the league.

    I think, finally, they can’t buck the odds anymore. With their two best guards hurt, Plumlee wore out, no interior defense to count on and Frye and Green struggling to find their shots, the team is bound to falter.

    So let’s not stick a knife in them while the are down. We have had a remarkable season with a lot to look forward in the future.

  • ellensburgbballfan

    Awesome post rengaw


    Archie Goodwin is 19 everyone

    and look at those stats

    16 point 7 boards 2 steals a block

    Len came in for 11 minutes and yeah he only had one point 1 board and a block, he also got to the line 4 times

    Heck, ish smith had 13 points 8 boards and 5 assists

    Missing the playoffs if it happens wouldn’t be the worst thing ever

    Cleveland had problems this season because players did not fit with each other

    I would have loved for the suns to get two number 4 picks and two number one overall in 4 Years

  • Scott

    It would have been nice to see McD make more progress with this team, but I guess there wasn’t much opportunity at the trade deadline.

    Have to wait for the draft and the summer for the next moves.

    The Suns will have to work hard and/or get lucky to make the playoffs this year. The smallest amount of bad luck could sink them.

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    I wouldnt rush back Dragic or Bledsoe

    you do that and they could get injured again and make the problem a lot worse

    there are plenty of games left for the Suns to see if they will make the playoffs or miss it

    no need to panic

    The Suns are really young and yet are in good shape for the future

    look at the Mavericks, they are headed toward an eventually total rebuild, on a team filled with veterans and yet the teams two records are nearly identical

    and the Mavs i dont think have had nearly the injury problems we have had

    Coach Hornacek, McMiracle, and all the Suns players deserve a ton of credit for the team playing their butts off every night

    any long term fan of this team, that looks beyond the immediate future, should be excited at what this team could be

  • bill_thomas

    Did anyone ever notice when few want to post here on games where there is little effort, talent or coaching to be shown?

    Regardless of the absence of Dragic and Bledsoe, effort and BBIQ need to be picked up a bit. Let’s not embarrass ourselves. And watch these rotations.

  • vtsunrise

    Toughest part of the season. Suns have been a storybook franchise so far this year, captivating many observers for surpassing expectations. But the reality is that they’ll do amazingly well just stay around .500 for the remaining games. In my original outlook/prediction for the season, I had pegged March as 4-12 and April as 1-7. Even with a healthy, full squad, there are a whole lot of challenging games coming up.

    Time to regroup, focus on the future, give plenty of PT to Archie and Ish, etc., and welcome Dragic and Bledsoe back once they’re ready. And if they make the playoffs, enjoy the ride. And if not, enjoy building on a great start of a rebuild this year.

  • vtsunrise

    And another thought:

    Does this game solidify Goran’s chances at league MVP?

  • vtsunrise

    Well…. he’s been looking pretty Nashty lately PLUS he’s a white man who can dunk!

  • Luka

    McDonough should’ve tried to get Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes from the Sixers. That’s the kind of move that would’ve given the Suns offense a much needed shot in the arm. The Suns are getting zero production inside. Plumlee has definitely regressed, and I don’t even wanna talk about Markieff or Frye.

    I commented that if the Suns stood pay they wouldn’t make the playoffs and it’s starting to look like that may be the case. The great defense early on has sprung a leak. The team looks disengaged.

    Hornacek has to consider a line-up change. The first order of business is to park Frye on the bench and start Tucker at the 4. I’d actually consider doing this starting line-up:

    Plumlee, Tucker, Green, Goodwin, Dragic

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Blame on this loss by percentage:

    60%…..Dragic injury
    30%…..B2B game at altitude
    10%…..SunsN7 prediction

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Wow, a Bill Thomas sighting! haven’t seen him in a while

  • EBJM

    Get real already, Richard Jefferson, Jeremy Evans, Diante Garrett…..those are D league level talent.

    I’m only shocked that Marvin Williams looked worse than Frye.

    These are the games than Alex Len should be playing until fouling out. WTF? He had three more fouls to use!

  • EBJM

    Phoenix and Memphis both have 24 losses. Look like it will be Phoenix that will be the best team out of the playoffs. Maybe Minnesota could catch them so the Suns could get that 4th pick?

  • mom grunkle

    19 yr old Archie Goodwin was the best Suns player on the court in this game. He got some steals and deflections. He scored well (even hit a 3). He had an awesome last second poster jam over a 7 footer where he had the clock run to literally 0. Perfect time management on that. He got in there and skied for some rebounds, at least once when he was the only Suns player among 4 Jazz guys. He flopped around when hit with picks drawing a couple fouls on the Jazz. He has that whatever it is that refs like that give him the benefit of the doubt from Refs, unlike say Plumlee who gets the bad call almost everytime.

    The kid is already damn good and he’s going to be great within 2 years if given opportunity.


    I agree with some of what Kenn said. The further you go in the playoffs, the experience you gain, the confidence that builds for the following year is more important than anything else. This is not an old team making one last run,like the Suns in the past. We need to add a go to guy,low post player.Bring Frye and Tucker off the bench.They are both roll players not starters.

  • sunsn7

    Mama Grunkle you are definitely onto something! ;)

    ..oh and sorry Hawki :D

  • sunsn7

    And just for the record, when the Suns were on their early season roll, I did voice my concern over the difficulty of the schedule in the 2nd half of the season. Im not surprised by this slump but what does surprise me is the lack of fire and intensity from the team (not you Goran, Archie) and no sense of urgency.

    Frye needs to come off the bench where he’ll be most effective

  • sunsn7

    Jimmer Fredette bout to be bought out and released…no defense though but still intriguing

  • Smovich

    “Get real already, Richard Jefferson, Jeremy Evans, Diante Garrett…..those are D league level talent.”

    I think the same could be argued for the players the Suns put on the floor without Goran and Bledsoe… at the very least, it was said about those players last year.

    Let’s not forget, this Utah team recently beat Miami with the same D-League talent and against a more stacked Miami team than Phx put on the floor.

  • PYT

    I have questions of how it is qualified that this team is better than last season’s team, given the current plight of losses.

    I realize this team was a surprise to everyone with the expectations placed on them before the season started, given that majority of the players were new to the team and new to playing together.

    But, we cannot ignore the fact that if they miss the playoffs, and finish with roughly the same kind of record, how can we qualify that they have come so far from where they were before.

    I see all the praises and outlandish future predictions about the Suns if they got into the playoffs. I just don’t understand the logic.

    Just yesterday, I read on BSOTS the excuses being generated as to the why they lose the game. That’s a weekly occurrence from this website’s posters as well.

    Every time the Suns win, you say some idiotic drivel. And every time they lose, you make excuses for them as to why they loss. It gets really old after a while, esp. when we all were expecting a trade before the deadline, and it didn’t happen.

    Last seasons record = this seasons record
    Last season No Playoffs = this season No Playoffs
    Trade for a PF < No trade for a PF

    Suns are in the same boat. It sucks that management again drops the ball, and is content to ride it out until seasons end. It sucks that all the so-called fans are content with this product, and make excuses for the team, rather than ask for accountability.

  • sunsn7

    PYT is OBVIOUSLY a bitter Lakers fan


  • john

    This game was a perfect showcase of how badly Goran Dragic deserved to be an All-Star.

  • Foreveris2long

    Momma and VT I am fully onboard with plans for the future. As for Goodwin Momma, I have said before and continue to believe that his confidence, work ethic, being fearless and athletic ability remind me a lot of Kobe Bryant when he was 19. And while I am not predicting greatness, he is going to be a special player for the Suns. I will predict within about a year he is going to force the Suns to trade one of their other guards to give him considerably more playing time.

    Green could be the odd man out since I believe his contract expires in 2015. Then again they could move Green to small forward especially if Tucker leaves this summer. I hope he does not but it is certainly possible while Suns seek a prime time power forward. I continue to vote for G. Monroe or C. Bosh.

    PYT, IMO other than the possibility this year’s team will not make the playoffs like the 2013 team, the comparisons end there. This year’s team has already won more game than last year’s truck wreck. This year’s team has a Coach of the Year candidate in Coach Horny, a most Improved Player in Green and two fairly promising rookies in Len (despite stumbling in the lane like a lost St. Bernard last night) and Goodwin to go along with probably 3 1st round picks this summer. We also have a very promising GM in McD.

    We will agree to disagree PYT but I am glad management did not mortgage our future by trading a 1st round pick to rent a soon to be free agent like Gasol to help the team make the playoffs. . Since I agree the draft is a crap shoot, I think the multiple picks increase your odds of landing a really good player.

  • http://.... Jeff


  • http://none Go Phx

    The trolls always come out when you lose. *rolling eyes*

  • DZ

    25 – 57.

    It still hurts to think of those numbers.

    Last season wasn’t a complete disaster but it was close. (We did bring Dragic back and “discovered” Tucker.)

    Before this season started I thought I might be a little too optimistic in thinking (hoping) that this team might be good enough to win 35 total this year. The biggest difference between this team and last years team is that it is young and athletic with probably only one player that has peaked and won’t continue to improve. And we have a rookie head coach and a rookie GM that both have done great jobs.

    Last year the Suns were setting. This year the Suns are rising.

  • Preston Scott

    Jimmer Fredette is a perfect fit for this team and its style.

  • Ughz

    Phoenix Suns: known for picking up other teams trash, and overpaying to do it

    Jimmer is a white guy who cant play a lick nor can he shoot and if he was any kinda player they wouldnt have bought him out

    He could have been traded no because hes not worth it – he cant play defense either so we know the Suns must be interested

  • EBJM

    PYT and Ughz great observations.

    Goodwin has been glued to the bench all season long and out of necessity, Hornacek is forced to use him and he filled the stat sheet and had a couple of highlight plays against a lottery bound Jazz team that uses five kids complimented by D league talent and suddenly he is ROY candidate.

    Same thing with the Suns season as a whole. They have over-achieved the whole season and because of that it is illogically inferred that they have a so much more room to grow and improve.

    Their best PF continues to come off the bench. Fans are still claiming that Frye is the key to their success because he camps out at the three-point line and does nothing else.

    Tucker brings nothing to the offensive side.

    Green brings nothing to the defensive side.

    Bledsoe is on track to have missed HALF of TWO seasons in only four seasons due to damaging the same meniscus TWICE and he is only 24.

    Miles Plumlee is 25 years old and cannot hit a shot that is not a dunk or lay-up but while making it to the NBA without a shot he suddenly just needs to practice?

    Jarod and Jason Collins have practiced their entire careers, why haven’t either of them learned how to shoot?

    With all of the Suns unexpected success their reward will be picking at #14, & losing the Wolves pick who will finish at #13.

    But yeah, wasn’t this season fun since the Suns didn’t suck?