The Phoenix Suns entered the game with the knowledge that the Brooklyn Nets have shelved their best players for the rest of the year. The Suns, only one game "better" than the Nets in the loss column in a race for third worst record and more lotto balls, countered with a convincing loss to the playoff-hungry Jazz.
(Brooklyn doesn't even keep their pick! They gave swap rights to the Boston Celtics three years ago in the Garnett/Pierce trade. Oy. Yes, that means the Celtics will have as good a chance as the Suns at the top overall pick)
In the first three meetings between these teams, the Jazz went 3-0 with an average score of 102-83. That's a 19 point win on average, for those of us who are math challenged.
So when the Suns started the game with a 23-16 lead after the first quarter, you had to know it was going to be short-lived. Frankly the Suns have no answer for the Jazz' size and skill. Besides Suns-sized point guard Shelvin Mack, the rotation of Hood/Hayward/Favors/Gobert/Lyles/Booker has no one under 6'8". All are skilled offensively and defensively, making it easy to switch on defense and free flow on offense.
Anyway, the Jazz outscored the Suns 30-10 in the second quarter, exacerbated by coach Earl Watson's mind-melt of playing Chandler/Len/Mirza/Tucker/Booker lineup most of that time. He had to go big and had no other answers. It was ugly.
The rest of the game was just an exercise in futility.
Great props to the fans though! When P.J. Tucker made a put back in the third quarter to briefly cut the Jazz lead to 10, the crowd let out a cheer that put their earlier "we got free Carl's Jr.!" cheer from the first half.
Mirza Teletovic led the Suns scoring off the bench, and Tyson Chandler had a great game (as long as he wasn't guarding the perimeter). Teletovic had 24 points for the second game in a row, and Chandler had 21 points and 18 rebounds.
Jazz win 101-86.
Here's some game notes.
As is always the case when Ronnie Price starts, the Suns began the game with good effort but poor shot making. They showed energy on both ends of the court, but only led 8-6 with the Jazz shooting 2-for-11 to start the game. Not a good sign.
The Suns biggest problem stems from a lack of clear, positive playsets on the offensive end. It seems the plan is to pass. A lot. And hope that leads to better and better shots. That plan does not often work.
Still, the Suns play hard fairly often and this game was no exception. Tyson Chandler and Alex Len were particularly engaged, taking the challenge of going up against the talented Jazz front line of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert.
Tyson Chandler put up 8 points and 6 rebounds in the first quarter alone (without committing a foul), after averaging only 5 points, 6 rebounds in the first three meetings (22 minutes per game).
The Suns led 23-16 after one quarter, holding the Jazz to 26% shooting. But the Suns turnover woes continue, losing six possessions to keep the game close.
And then the second quarter happened.
Coach Watson got tired of watching the Jazz run out a lineup with only one guy shorter than 6'8", so he went into his kitchen and cooked up his own "big" lineup. And the Suns got outscored 30-10.
A Len, Chandler, Teletovic, Tucker and Booker lineup boasts no one shorter than 6'5". It boasts absolutely nothing else.
The Suns were down 46-33 at halftime, and I'm surprised it wasn't worse. The Jazz made 12 of 19 shots, while the Suns made only 3 of 19.
And after such a promising start...
The Suns came out in the second half like they still wanted to play basketball. Well that's good. I was worried for a bit there, after such a bad second quarter showing.
P.J. Tucker made three straight threes to help the Suns pull within 4 points early in the second half (53-49).
Then the Jazz woke up, and went on a 13-4 run of their own to pull back up 66-53 in short order. Again, the Jazz went versatile with Lyles at PF, Favors at C along with Hayward and Hood. And the Suns stubbornly stayed with Len and Chandler. The Jazz kept isolating Chandler on the wing after switches.
Still, Chandler was having a good game offensively and in the paint, where he was supposed to be. Chandler had 16 points and 17 rebounds through three quarters.
The fourth quarter was just a walk-through I think. The Jazz scored a lot. The Suns scored a little.
In the end, the game went as the other three did this year.