04 April 2012
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
The last fractions of a second in tonight's loss to the visiting Phoenix Suns were a microcosm of the entire game, this playoff push and in many ways the season as a whole: at times scintillatingly close while simultaneously debilitatingly far away. Every Jazz run down the stretch brought them within striking distance of a victory only to have that victory slip away by the thinnest of margins. Certainly the outcome of Utah's season won't be decided by referees at a sideline video board but the franchise's loyal fans will likely be in waiting until the very last moments to find out if the Jazz will be playoff bound or playing the lottery. Certainly they will miss or make the post season by similarly thin margins.
A Steve Nash team is a crafty, well executed team no matter how marginally talented the pieces are around him. In Utah's most recent meeting with the Suns it was Jared Dudley who went to town on a Jazz defense that seemed incapable of defending the three point shot and the story tonight was much the same with Michael Redd filling the role of sharp shooter. In addition to moving the ball far more effectively than the Jazz, the Suns' scored 30 more points than Utah did on three point shooting which more than made up for the field goal percentage advantage held by the Jazz (50.6% to 45.1%). Utah narrowed the gap created by Phoenix's sharp shooters by maintaining the advantage at the free throw line and points in the paint. Channing Frye hit an absurdly miraculous buzzer beater with 1:06 to go from the logo rendering moot one of the few plays where the Jazz defended the perimeter effectively. Utah simply couldn't stop Phoenix from dropping threes, they didn't even try and even when they managed to put together a defensive posession near the perimeter, it failed. Such was the plight of the Utah Jazz this evening.
The flow of tonight's game was tidal with Phoenix establishing leads early in each quarter and the Jazz closing those leads out to finish. In each period of play, however, Utah couldn't maintain momentum long enough to put any distance between themselves and the Suns. The leads built primarily by the Suns' bench were hills to steep to climb. As my peers at the Utah Jazz Blog seem well aware, these hills are becoming somewhat familiar, on all scales.
The Jazz starting five of Watson, Hayward, Miles, Jefferson and Millsap held it down against the Suns' starters. All five Jazz starters had a positive +/- while all of the Phoenix starters were in the negative. Utah's four man bench unit of Tinsley, Favors, Burks and Kanter were out run by the slightly deeper five man substitution squad run by Phoenix. The +/- situation was entirely reversed in this case with Utah's bench entirely in the negative in contrast with the Suns' which was entirely positive. The game slipped away from Utah more when Steve Nash was off the court than when he was on it.
At the end, however, it was still Steve Nash who answered each huge shot Al Jefferson made to get the Jazz back to even with the Suns with a shot of his own to take the game back out of reach. Just as the season is likely to, the game came down to a desperation last chance possession that was scintillatingly close but debilitating far away.
Utah has lost the tie breaker with Phoenix but has one last chance to get a win against the Suns on April 24th.
Final Score: Phoenix 107 - Jazz 105
If the Playoffs Started Today: The Jazz would be lottery bound.
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