The Suns have been a different team over these last two games...no doubt about it. Whether or not this is truly a change in identity and a sign of things to come remains to be seen. But one thing's for sure, winning sure feels better than losing!
The Suns had to match the physical way Utah plays to beat the Jazz. That meant controlling the Jazz’s offensive rebounds and points in the paint while keeping the Jazz off the free-throw line. The Suns were beaten in second-chance points by six, but Marcin Gortat out-rebounded Al Jefferson 14-12. The Suns outscored Utah by two at the free-throw line and by six for points in the paint. Playing Utah even at its game was a big boost, especially on a night when the Suns finally showed some shooting eye from long distance, going 6 for 13 and showing more prudence in taking them.
The Suns beat Utah at their own game by winning the battle of the bigs and scoring more points in the paint. Rather than the outside-in offensive approach the Suns had been using for most of the season, Phoenix was able to get the ball into the post through great ball movement, or kick it out to open shooters when the defense would collapse. Head coach Alvin Gentry called for more ball movement instead of over-dribbling the ball (looking at you Shannon Brown), and that's exactly what he got last night.
The Suns had trailed by double digits in all but one of their prior 11 home games and in 19 of 23 overall, but that wasn't an issue against Utah.
After falling behind early, the Suns took a 20-18 lead on a reverse layup by Dudley with 4:26 left in the first quarter and never looked back.
Coming out fast and playing aggressive was certainly a key to winning this game. The Suns were able to carry over their momentum from the Grizzlies' win and get off to a hot start on both ends of the court. Rather than trying to make their patented fourth-quarter comeback, the Suns were able to play in front for nearly the entire game, allowing the players to play loose and more confidently.
Notebook: Suns 99, Jazz 84 by Mike Tulumello, for NBA.com
The Jazz (13-11) had their four-game win streak snapped. The Suns (9-15) got a huge game from Jared Dudley, who is playing as if he is the solution at the starting small forward spot. Dudley put up a season-high 22 points, plus five assists, four rebounds and three steals in 43 minutes.
Marcin Gortat added 12 points and 14 boards while defending Al Jefferson, who usually crushes the Suns. In this game, Jefferson settled for 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Goran Dragic had 17 points, five assists and just one turnover.
Jared Dudley was certainly the player of the game for the Suns--once again doing it all as he played 43 minutes and wouldn't allow Gentry to let him leave the floor until garbage time at the end of the game. However, the play of P.J. Tucker and Jermaine O'Neal, especially in the fourth quarter, should also be mentioned as they both played huge for the Suns in crunch time to keep the Jazz at bay.
It was all pretty much started by Goran Dragic though. Dribble penetration. It's a problem. PS. Turn overs suck -- and so does losing to a Michael Beasley team.
Of course we need to provide the viewpoint from the competition's eyes as well. The recap from the boys over at SLC Dunk was pretty much the same though...but you have to laugh at that last little quip about losing to a Michael Beasley team. Oh B-Easy...how your reputation precedes you!
And finally...while it's not a recap. There was one quote from an opposing player that caught my eye which I felt the need to highlight here:
"I don't think their defense is that great to be honest with you." We just didn't execute as well as we're supposed to."
-- Paul Millsap
Hmmm...I suppose that's possible Mr. Millsap. However, this performance didn't just come out of nowhere either. The Suns played the same exact way against the Grizzlies on Wednesday night to hand them their fifth loss of the season. I think the Suns deserve a little credit here, don't you?