Game Notes: Jazz at Suns
Suns allow 41-point fourth quarter. Ouch.
by Dennis Tarwood
Two young men sporting Jazz jerseys swooped down on me outside US Airways Arena after the game Thursday night with talons out: “It must suck to be a Suns fan tonight!”
It sure wasn’t skittles and beer for the locals. A 41-point fourth quarter for the visiting Utah squad scuttled a promising night for the Phoenix Suns, gutting a double-digit lead the home team held for most of the night on the way to a 116-108 Utah Jazz victory.
I smiled wryly at the misguided carrion fans and flashed my badge: “Sorry; media.” No newly killed Suns fan spirits to feast upon here, gentlemen.
The boisterous speaker for the duo recoiled at the authority of the Fourth Estate. “Whooooa. Media. Sorry.” It turned out he had already been chastened by security during the game, having been escorted out just as his team had tied the game with four minutes left in the contest.
An adequate Suns defense missing Goran Dragic (right ankle sprain) to buttress a defensive-mind second squad collapsed in the final frame after three fairly physical quarters of action, failing to close down the three-point line for business. The Jazz responded by sinking 7-11 threes while the Suns missed 8 of 9, neatly summing up the difference.
It wasn’t his fault, though, you see. He had just been cheering for his team as they finally broke through after three quarters of failed opportunities to shorten Phoenix’s bench by sticking to their high-low offense and not running the PG-light Phoenix roster through six screens on each possession.
You must understand he was merely popping his jersey to the crowd behind him and shouting, “Go Jazz!” He had a witness, too. His friend nodded in agreement as he explained that his friend was “nearly sober” and didn’t think his behavior was egregious.
Security must have detected the alcohol odor coming off the man same as I did an hour after the final buzzer, helping make their decision easier. (You are welcome to wonder why the gentlemen were still hovering around the arena nearly 90 minutes after being booted, looking for Suns fans to harass.)
To be clear, this gentleman was not the same one you may have seen on TNT sitting behind the Suns bench heckling Alvin Gentry and offering one of his wives back for a Jazz win. That person was wearing a trucker hat with sunglasses perched on the brim indoors.
The Jazz themselves couldn’t hold the Suns back up until his ejection, either. Through three quarters, the Suns shot 64 percent from the field, only staying close to the Jazz on the scoreboard due to the disparity in free throws shot and made (20-27 for Utah vs. 14-22 for Phoenix) and 14 Suns turnovers that came mostly from those acting as point guards for the night (Nash and Grant Hill).
The officiating all night could best be described as shaky with 53 personal fouls, a flagrant one, matching technicals, and enough visits to the replay monitor for Suns owner Robert Sarver to ask the referees to pitch in on the US Airways Arena cable bill this month. The hallmark moment for the referees came late in the second quarter when the wrong Jazz player ended up on the free throw line, forcing a do-over and an Alvin Gentry aneurysm imitation.
Referee Poobah Bernie Fryer was spotted before the game; the post-game debriefing went well for all involved, I’m sure.
In the fourth quarter, that translated into a double-technical on Amar’e Stoudemire and Paul Millsap that came so late after the light tussle it appeared there was a human satellite delay. It was no wonder that Andrei Kirilenko felt justified in performing “Swan Lake” into the photographers after being brushed by Robin Lopez on the break with 2:17 left in the game.
Unfortunately for my new-found friends outside the arena after the game, they missed that play as they were already out in the cold by then, much like the Suns’ shots at that moment. The complaint about the Suns from the locals as recently as a month ago was that they couldn’t hold leads late appeared to return on this second leg of a back-to-back for the home team.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan didn’t care to pin the blame on fatigue for the Suns or the reward for three quarters of physical play after the game, much less good luck for the Jazz: “You can’t have any luck if you don’t compete. Otherwise, we would have never gotten those (seven) steals.”
Deron Williams (27/0/9, 5-9 3 pts) felt it could have been a matter of focus: “When you’re at home and you get up, sometimes you get a little complacent and I think that’s what happened with them today.” It wasn’t complacency that kept Deron from working Nash hard all night, but that could have been due to lingering right wrist issues as well.
Jason Richardson (22/7/1) didn’t feel fatigue was a factor, but Amar’e Stoudemire (30/0/7) agreed that Suns Spring Break (a five-day stretch without games starting after Saturday’s home game against the Pacers) would be a welcome respite.
The Utah Jazz now rest in fourth spot in the Western Conference after the win, putting 1.5 games between them and the fifth-place Suns and taking the tiebreaker with a 2-0 lead in the three-game series that will conclude in the final game of the season. They tackle the Clippers at home Saturday, hoping to avenge a loss at Staples Center on 3/1.
The two Jazz fans did want to end on a positive note, though, and move past their anger at missing their team’s comeback win. So, at their request and on their behalf, I must tell you Phoenix Suns fans have the most gaiety of any team’s supporters in the entire NBA. So congratulations on the moral victory and better luck against Indiana Saturday, Suns fans.
(At least I believe that’s what he said. It was something about “Suns fans” and “gay,” but he was still slurring his words slightly.)
– Suns rookie forward Earl Clark could be headed for the D-League before season’s end for seasoning according to Alvin Gentry, but he’ll stick with the team for now.
– Jazz C Mehmet Okur has a work visa for the United States and a permanent residency card for the lane. Diplomatic immunity may be the only reason he’s not perpetually called for defensive three seconds.
– Kevin Harlan should be ashamed to be peeking at the Lakers-Heat game on the monitor during the national anthem. As should I.