Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Preview: Bledsoe's return

Christian Petersen

Eric Bledsoe returns to the court tonight as the Suns take on the worst team in the NBA.

Suns @ Jazz

  • Records: PHX 8-7 (3rd, Pacific); UTA 2-14 (Last, NBA)
  • Time: 6 p.m. Pacific, 7 p.m. Arizona, 8 p.m. Central, 9 p.m. Eastern
  • TV: Fox Sports Arizona
  • Radio: Arizona Sports 620, NBA Audio League Pass

Previous Meeting

These two teams met up in the second game of the year. Both teams struggled offensively all game, and Goran Dragic kicked off his streak of leaving games early with injury. Utah's top three players, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, each finished with a double-double.

But it was Eric Bledsoe who turned out to be the star of the game. After having an awful first three quarters, Bledsoe exploded in the fourth after Dragic went down, scoring 17 of his team-high 18 points in the final period. In fact, Bledsoe scored the final 14 points for the Suns including the game-winning 3-pointer with less than a second left in the clock.

Injury Report

For the Suns, Eric Bledsoe has missed six straight games with a bruised shin that just won't heal. Paul Coro says it looks like Bledsoe will give it a go tonight, however.

Alex Len continues to be day-to-day with his sore ankles. Hopefully he can get over this and get back to full strength at some point in the not too distant future. Len has shown some flashes, but he can't get any better if he can't play.

For the Jazz, center Enes Kanter is a game-time decision with a sprained ankle. He missed Utah's last game against Chicago, but it sounds like he'll play tonight as well.

Suns


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Eric Bledsoe 9 34.8 6.9 13.8 50.0 1.1 3.8 29.4 5.6 6.7 83.3 0.6 4.0 4.6 6.8 3.9 1.8 0.1 2.0 20.4
Goran Dragic 12 33.1 6.3 13.3 47.2 1.1 3.3 33.3 3.8 4.9 78.0 0.6 2.5 3.1 6.9 2.7 0.8 0.2 2.3 17.4
Gerald Green 15 29.0 5.3 11.5 45.7 2.5 6.6 38.4 1.6 2.1 77.4 0.7 2.3 2.9 1.4 2.1 0.7 0.5 2.9 14.7
Markieff Morris 14 25.9 4.7 9.6 49.3 0.4 1.0 35.7 2.6 3.4 78.7 1.6 4.4 5.9 1.8 1.3 1.2 0.2 2.2 12.4
Marcus Morris 15 23.1 3.6 7.9 45.8 1.3 3.2 41.7 2.2 2.8 78.6 1.5 4.0 5.5 1.0 1.9 1.1 0.2 1.9 10.7
Channing Frye 15 26.8 3.9 8.8 43.9 1.7 4.5 37.3 0.9 1.1 81.3 0.9 4.5 5.3 0.7 0.9 1.0 0.9 3.1 10.3
Miles Plumlee 15 29.3 4.5 9.1 49.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.9 2.4 38.9 2.3 6.2 8.5 0.4 1.5 0.6 1.9 2.5 9.9
P.J. Tucker 15 30.9 3.4 7.4 45.9 1.3 2.6 51.3 0.8 1.2 66.7 1.7 3.1 4.8 1.7 1.5 1.3 0.3 2.5 8.9
Archie Goodwin 14 12.3 1.6 4.2 39.0 0.1 1.2 11.8 0.5 0.9 58.3 0.4 1.4 1.8 0.5 1.1 0.5 0.4 0.7 3.9
Ish Smith 12 12.8 1.3 4.0 31.3 0.1 0.8 11.1 0.3 0.3 100.0 0.1 1.2 1.3 2.2 1.0 0.8 0.3 0.8 2.8
Dionte Christmas 10 8.5 1.0 2.4 41.7 0.4 1.1 36.4 0.3 0.4 75.0 0.3 1.2 1.5 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.0 0.9 2.7
Alex Len 4 7.8 0.8 1.8 42.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.5 50.0 1.3 0.5 1.8 0.3 0.8 0.5 0.5 2.0 1.8
Viacheslav Kravtsov 6 3.3 0.3 0.5 66.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.7 50.0 0.5 0.3 0.8 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.0


Goran Dragic is having a tremendous season for the Suns. As I wrote in my column earlier, Dragic is averaging 21 and nine assists in games he's both started and finished. Dragic has to be the guy to run the offense and get everyone else open looks. So much pressure is placed on Dragic every game, and for the most part he has handled that brilliantly.

As for the rest of the team, the Suns have four guys shooting 37 percent or better from the perimeter. Dragic is the first option on most plays, but if he can't get a shot off he's usually collapsing the defense and kicking out to a shooter. This season, those shooters are making teams pay.

The Morris Twins have both provided consistent production over the last few games. If they can continue to do so, the Suns can continue to win.

Jazz


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Gordon Hayward 16 36.9 5.9 15.3 38.8 1.3 4.1 30.8 3.7 4.7 78.7 1.1 4.4 5.5 5.1 3.3 1.4 0.6 2.3 16.8
Enes Kanter 15 31.8 5.9 11.7 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.1 2.8 73.8 2.9 4.1 7.0 1.1 2.1 0.1 0.7 3.3 13.8
Derrick Favors 16 33.0 5.0 10.5 47.6 0.0 0.1 0.0 3.0 4.9 60.8 3.0 6.9 9.9 1.5 2.5 1.5 1.4 3.8 13.0
Alec Burks 16 26.1 3.8 10.1 37.3 0.4 1.8 21.4 2.6 3.6 70.7 0.7 1.8 2.4 2.4 1.9 1.1 0.3 2.2 10.4
Richard Jefferson 16 29.6 3.6 9.1 39.0 1.4 4.0 35.9 1.8 2.4 76.3 0.4 2.4 2.8 1.8 1.8 0.7 0.3 2.3 10.4
Marvin Williams 10 24.6 3.5 7.9 44.3 1.6 3.8 42.1 0.7 1.1 63.6 1.3 3.6 4.9 0.9 1.1 0.9 0.5 2.9 9.3
Trey Burke 4 21.5 3.5 10.5 33.3 0.8 3.3 23.1 0.8 0.8 100.0 0.3 3.3 3.5 3.0 2.0 0.5 0.0 1.5 8.5
Jeremy Evans 4 17.3 4.0 5.0 80.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 100.0 2.0 1.8 3.8 1.0 1.8 1.0 1.0 2.5 8.3
John Lucas III 16 21.3 2.1 6.2 34.3 0.8 2.8 28.9 0.3 0.4 71.4 0.4 1.0 1.4 1.7 0.8 0.3 0.0 1.2 5.4
Diante Garrett 7 18.0 2.4 5.6 43.6 0.4 1.6 27.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.7 1.1 4.1 1.6 1.1 0.0 0.6 5.3
Mike Harris 13 12.5 1.2 3.0 38.5 0.0 0.2 0.0 1.7 1.8 95.7 0.8 1.1 1.8 0.3 0.6 0.9 0.3 1.8 4.0
Ian Clark 8 8.6 1.1 3.3 34.6 0.4 1.4 27.3 0.1 0.4 33.3 0.1 0.8 0.9 0.6 0.5 0.1 0.1 1.1 2.8
Rudy Gobert 13 11.8 0.8 1.8 45.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 2.2 37.9 1.8 3.1 4.8 0.2 1.2 0.3 0.8 2.0 2.5
Brandon Rush 1 9.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 2.0 0.0 0.0 2.0 0.0

The Jazz have been the worst team in the league, edging out the Milwaukee Bucks, and their tanking campaign appears to be going quite well.

Gordon Hayward has been struggling mightily with his shot as Utah's first option, but he's still doing a lot of good things for the Jazz and almost put up a triple-double the last time he played the Suns.

Derrick Favors is a double-double threat every night. and with Kanter back they have a very talented frontcourt.

One big difference from the first game is that rookie Trey Burke did not play in the first meeting. He's now healthy and has played in the least four. Burke has struggled mightily, but he was the Player of the Year in college basketball last season and can definitely burn the Suns if they let him.

Former Sun Diante Garrett has latched on with Utah, and has actually played fairly well for them. However, he was a DNP-CD in their last game against Chicago.

Starting Line-Ups

PG: Goran Dragic - Trey Burke

SG: Gerald Green - Gordon Hayward

SF: P.J. Tucker - Richard Jefferson

PF: Channing Frye - Marvin Williams*

C: Miles Plumlee - Derrick Favors*

*Bledsoe will come off the bench if he can play tonight, while Favors will likely start at center pushing Marvin Williams back to the bench.

Match-Ups to Watch

Goran Dragic vs. Trey Burke: Burke is a rookie, he;s under six feet tall and he hasn't played well so far. Dragic needs to take advantage and dominate this match-up.

P.J. Tucker vs. Gordon Hayward: I certainly hope this is the match-up, as I feel much less confident in Green's ability to slow down Hayward. Like Dragic is for the Suns, Hayward is the guy who is going to do most of the creating for the Jazz. Make things tough on him and the whole Utah offense will struggle.

Suns bigs vs Derrick Favors: Miles Plumlee, Channing Frye and Markieff Morris will all probably get their shot against Favors. They need to make him take tough shots in the post and keep him off the offensive glass.

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