It's crunch time. Right now. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE.
If the Phoenix Suns plan to take part in the postseason, it would probably be a good idea to win this game tonight against another WC foe, the Utah Jazz.
The Suns currently sit in the 12th seed, tied with Golden State, 3 games back from 8th place Houston. Tonight the Suns could help themselves out by downing the 10th seeded Utah Jazz who are only a game ahead of the purple and orange. Al Jefferson leads the Jazz 19 and 9, and has scored in double figures in every game he has played in this season save for his first outing against the Lakers on December 27. Of course Jefferson is not impervious to making the Jazz faithful "cringe." Check out what Amar from SLC Dunk had to say about Aljeff:
Big Al had a great game against the Detroit Pistons: 33 points, 12 rebounds, and he even made one three pointer. We can extoll his virtues for shooting 14/18, but also cringe at his 1 assist to 4 turn overs. Still, all things considered (including the win), it was a remarkable night for a remarkable individual. It was a night that I will not easily forget.
GETTING DOWN TO BRASS TACKS
It dawned on this blog guy that any key to a Suns win is the same every night out. Play a complete game. There's very very little margin for error. When they play defense and out-rebound their foe, they usually win. So why turn this into more than what it is? The deal is this, the Suns need to play with heart and intensity for 48 minutes. The Jazz have a couple of beasts in the front line in Jefferson and Milsap. Jeff has had some success versus the Suns to the tune of 20 and 11 in 17 games. However, he averages 17 FG attempts a game to pick up those 20 points. Josh Howard is probable for the game tonight. While not a Suns killer, he could be categorized as a Suns abuser, averaging 18 and 7 over 18 career games.
Marcin Gortat is coming off of one of his worst games in recent memory with 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 personal fouls. Do you think Polish Heritage Night distracted him? Said Gortat of his poor performance in the Minnesota game: "After the game, I was in a big black hole because I didn't help the team," Gortat said. "I didn't play. It was bad. It was definitely like a wake-up call. Once in a while, you need a game like that to bring your ass back from the sky to Earth. It was a game to make me be sure to be humble again." The Suns will certainly need the Hammer if they hope to have success against the Jazz.
And now, a special feature, my brothers and sisters, 5 questions with SLC Dunk's very own, Amar:
WC: The Jazz and Suns are both in the midst of this crowded Western Conference race. How do see the stretch run playing out for the Jazz? Do you think they have what it takes to make the postseason?
A: I think that the Jazz brass have clearly put out a "Playoffs or Bust!" sign on their team plane. That's the message I get when they are turning down rumored offers for Josh Howard. Nothing else says 'win now' like starting Josh Howard. Sadly, for the Jazz brass, I don't think the Jazz are going to make the playoffs -- unless a couple of other teams start tanking. The front office expects a broken team with incompatible parts to overachieve. What Jazz fans are going to get is a gutsy performance down the stretch that solidly gets the Jazz the #13 or #14 pick in the draft.
WC: Obviously Raja Bell is a former Sun, and many people would love to have him back. So, what was up with the recent altercation between Bell and coach Corbin?
A: Before he was a Suns player he was a Jazz player though, and for the most part, a lot of Jazz fans still hold a lot of affection for the veteran guard. He's having a remarkable year shooting the ball when you look at his percentages. He's also starting and playing half the game -- while not clearly being identified as a long term asset of the team going forward. Some don't understand the whole tiff between he and Head Coach (and former Suns player himself) Tyrone Corbin. It's not a 'minutes' argument, but perhaps it's a 'usage' argument? Andrei Kirilenko had similar problems that playing a lot of minutes didn't solve. At times the Jazz offense seems to shun the guards while Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap are on the court. Bell plays a lot of his minutes on the court with those two guys. Bell's a vet's vet -- so he's not precisely asking to take more shots a game, but the only guy on the entire team with a lower USG% is Jeremy Evans. On the record I really do not know much except both parties always say the right thing, but perhaps there are other concerns that are only aired out behind closed doors? Maybe Bell used Ty's ointment and didn't put the cap back after he was done? (Yes, old age home joke)
WC: How has the absence of Jerry Sloan affected the Jazz organization? As a fan, have you all moved on?
A: Jerry Sloan was the one major stabilizing force that everything was built around. He wasn't the cherry on the top, he was the foundation stone. Removing him has caused a lot of problems, mainly in terms of trying to find a leader and a direction. In his absence there has been a larger power vacuum than even I expected, and it's been filled up by . . . no one. Moving beyond Sloan, on the court it makes a huge difference as Tyrone Corbin can't swear at referees all game long and not get called for technical fouls. Also, Ty can jump up and down on the sidelines and it doesn't affect the game at all. He's essentially a rookie too, and the refs don't give him the benefit of the doubt on the sideline. The result is that (even at home) the Jazz are getting less calls despite playing the same players in the same system with the same playbook. I actually did the math. Yes, I need more hobbies.
Jazz fans will never get over Sloan, I'm taking a break from tweeting about Sloan's departure with four Jazz fans (two bloggers) right now to write these answers. It's something we can't get over, and it's something we all end up rehashing and yelling about online every few weeks.
WC: Many Suns fans absolutely adore Paul Milsap. How valuable is he to the Jazz?
A: Paul Millsap is even undervalued by his own franchise and the fans of this franchise. He's a second round pick who played behind three guys who were PF All-Stars (Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur) who despite no development from the coaching staff built himself up to be a complete player who could do so many more things than he could as a 'hustle guy' from a small school. He's a great story. Sadly, people seem to overlook him still because Al Jefferson takes 20 shots a game and the Jazz have Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings. His value with the team is decreasing, despite the fact that he still does all the things you love. It is beyond reason. Clearly, Millsap's value is not based upon any logic; to me he is invaluable. But I do not speak on behalf of the Jazz.
WC: Thoughts and predictions on tonight's matchup?
A: I predict that if Alec Burks gets another DNP-CD I will drive to Utah to start shooting people.Other than that, I think it will be a very fun game where I get to see this improved Suns Defense ! : )
I was asked who was better, Nash or Stockton. I thought it was only fair to retort and then ask the same of my counterpart:
A: Who's better? Nash is one of my favorite players, favourite even as I was born in Canada, and he's super impressive on offense. A total maestro. Even in the most mundane of metrics (the guys who played 50+ games in a season who finished it shooting 50 / 40 / 90 ), Nash excels. Yes, his name eclipses those of Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki in that regard. You call your agent every day to try to get him to get you on a team with Nash starting on it. I would. All of that said, homer hat fully on -- Stockton is better because the refs gave him more leeway on defense in terms of being "scrappy" (aka fouling). You don't end up leading the NBA in Total Steals without getting the respect from the refs. And in that regard, Stockton is way ahead of Nash. Is it fair? Obviously not. Stockton is better, but in the end there really is no 'loser' in this debate. Both are Epic Point Gods.
Check this out if you're interested in my point of view on some further Suns related Q&A