By: Quentin Shank
Even though the Phoenix Suns have won four straight in the EnergySolutions Arena the Utah Jazz have the 6th best attendance and are rolling on four wins in a row. Steve Nash said before the game that “…the last three or four games were must win so no need in changing plans for tonight..” In a fight for the eighth spot in the west the intensity started early with the Jazz going right to their big men (Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap) and the Suns doing what they know best, putting the ball in Nash’s hands. Run N’ Gun for the Suns meant some easy fast break points but also some silly turnovers reminiscent of the Mike D’Antoni era. Great passing and excellent finishing at the rim by the Jazz gave them a 25 to 19 lead after the first quarter.
There was entertaining, intense ball being played at the beginning of the second quarter. The Suns went with a 2-3 zone that seemed to occasionally slow down the young guns of the Jazz. The Suns also made it harder for them to feed the post which had destroyed them in the first quarter and all season. With nine turnovers (four coming from Nash) and eight blocks (five from Derrick Favors) the Suns couldn’t stop the twenty transition points or the crowd going wild with every play. Two of the five blocks that Favors had were on what should’ve been dunks by Marcin Gortat. Favors blocks simply electrified the crowd and led them to an eight to zero run. The half ended on a steal by Devin Harris that led to a transition point by Harris off of the assist by Gordon Hayward. With all the momentum going the Jazz’s way the Suns were still only trailing by seven, (forty-nine to forty-two) going into the third quarter.
The Jazz continued their hot streak and momentum rolling into the third quarter bumping the lead up to ten. With defensive rebounds and a couple of steals it seemed like the Jazz were going to run away with it early but the experience of the Suns proved that they could fight back. Hakim Warrick provided a spark off the bench getting the Suns within one. The teams battled back and forth again but still the Suns couldn’t quite get ahead due to the rookie Alec Burks’ (Colorado) match in energy for the Jazz. Favors picked up his fourth foul, which put a halt on the big lineup that Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin loves to put out on the floor.
Coming into the fourth coach Alvin Gentry went straight at Burks with the more experienced Michael Redd. It worked perfectly. Burks picked up all four fouls in the fourth quarter while Redd dropped five straight points that switched the flow the Suns way. The Suns grabbed the lead mid way through the fourth which was their first since the second quarter. After a couple of missed opportunities by the Suns and Al Jefferson hitting two big shots the lead went back to the Jazz (ninety-three – eighty) with two minutes left. Nash and Redd had some good looks at threes but they just were not falling for the Suns. Favors hit some clutch free throws and the Jazz won with a Final score of one hundred to eighty-eight.
Now I want to give credit first to the Suns and their coach, Alvin Gentry. They came out of the wood works this year to make a playoff run. They were sixteen and twenty at the all-star break with everyone but themselves counting them out of the west. Underneath Nash and hot shooting by Jared Dudley they fought themselves back into contention for that eighth spot. With all the talk that has been buzzing around Nash, I sincerely hope he gets a title somewhere. He has been consistently good for too long for him not to have a ring on his finger, as Beyoncé would say. Wherever Nash goes the thirty-eight year old will definitely make a positive impact.
Congratulations to the Jazz for also being over .500% and officially making the playoffs. Congratulations to Jefferson for making the playoffs for the first time. Go ahead and show us something against the top seeded Spurs! Who knows, the Jazz could be this years Memphis Grizzlies and pull the Cinderella story. This is why I love the NBA, this is the game right here with some of the best talent in the world putting on a great show and it's only going to get better in the playoffs.