Basketball, played on the same court, but with football rules becomes a dangerous little game I like to call Hard Court Rugby. This is what happened...
Some games, it is clear that the ball is slick, and teams struggle to handle the ball. Lots of turnovers and sloppy basketball is the result. Then there are games where the ball is constantly on the ground and the teams pile up for a Rugby Scrum like a scene from The Three Stooges.
Right before the half Burks caught the ball and tried a desperation heave at the buzzer from half court, like you know, in every other NBA game. Only this time he had the clever idea to shoulder tackle Goodwin then half heartily fling the ball at the rim. Tyrone Corbin earned a Technical Foul and Burks earned a stooge award for the night.
There is a fine line between confident while exceeding expectations and big timing the dregs of the league, like the Utah Jazz (3-15), which is precisely what the Phoenix Suns (9-8) did tonight. Sometimes it is tougher to get up for the lesser teams, but when you are the overachiever of the year there is no room for that.
In a home-and-home series with the Jazz the Suns took the first one, then the Jazz made a statement in the return match.
For the most part the game was dead even. When you look at the box-score it tells a very similar story. Each team was about identical in most categories from rebounding (39-35, Utah), to made field goals (39-37, Utah), to three's (12-9, Phoenix), and to total turnovers (8-12, Phoenix) which made the Jazz dominance in the second half perplexing to those that feed off box-score dumpster diving.
Dig a little deeper and the two numbers that matter the most ended up being second chance points, 25-13 Utah, and because of that; the final score 112-104, Utah.
It became a rugby match in the paint with Derrick Favors (14 points 8 rebounds), Enes Kanter (8 points 4 rebounds), and Jeremy Evans (12 points 4 rebounds) all making this game ugly inside.
The Suns were fueled by Goran Dragic monster first half (14 points 8 assists), but sputtered to the finish line as he finished with 24 points (11-13 free-throws) and 9 assists total. The team looked disjointed in the second half with a lack of effort, love of the three, and defensive miscues.
Dragic was the lone bright spot as the rest of the team managed only 8 total assists as a team and 12 free-throw attempts.
For the Jazz they got a career night from their rookie Trey Burke as he stepped up with 17 second half points (3-5 threes) on his way to a personal best 20 points.
The Jazz scored their season high in points (previous high 111 against New Orleans) and were 00.1% off their season high in field goal percentage, same game. This loss drops the Suns to 9-8 and was another wake-up call for them in terms of getting up for every opponent. They did not have the same energy that has become a staple of theirs this season tonight. Have to have that when you do not have elite level talent.
Can the Suns maintain this momentum into a three game winning streak tonight? Here are the details...
There are two occasions where the Phoenix Suns (9-7) must look at their calendars and smile, that is when they are playing either the Utah Jazz (2-15) (or the Portland Trail Blazers). This season they are a combined 4-1 against those two teams making up for 31.2% of the schedule early on.
In fact, both of those teams have had games come down to the final buzzer with game-winners. Crazy stuff.
This season the Suns (0-3) and Jazz (1-4) have not been particularly effective on the second game on a back-to-back. The Suns have lost all their games by a margin of -8.3 and the Jazz -11.8, but they won an overtime game against the Bulls by six points along the way. The Suns dropped both games of their home-and-home with the Kings this season and are looking to rectify that against the Jazz tonight by winning both.
On a back-to-back like this teams are tired, they settle for easier looks, and can come out lacking energy. That happens to everyone including the Suns. Settling for jumpers can hurt a team, but the Suns use them as a launching pad.
The Jazz are a Top 10 team defending the three-point line chasing opponents off of it, because of that they give up a lot of free-throws and looks inside, but they do a good job defending the three ball.
Against the Trail Blazers, a Top 3 defender of the three-point line, the Suns lite them up for 30 points behind the arc. They caught fire and changed the momentum of the game with the long ball. The Jazz defend the three well, but the Suns are a very opportunistic shooting team and could catch fire from there at any time with Green (11-35), Frye (12-28), Goran Dragic (6-15), and the team (37-110) in the past four games.
Look for a lot of jumpers and tired legs with the quick turnaround and flight back for both teams.
(Recent) History Lesson
87-84, Suns Win
112-101, Suns Win
In the second game of the season both Gordon Hayward and Eric Bledsoe hit go-ahead shots for their teams, but Bledsoe was the one with the ball in his hands last. That game provided an exciting finish for the shorthanded Jazz against the Suns. With this being a home-and-home the Jazz have an opportunity to get some revenge after they were dispatched rather easily last night.
Head-to-Head (past four seasons including Playoffs)
Suns: 97.4 PPG (8 wins)
Jazz: 95.4 PPG (4 wins)
Of the twelve games, seven have been decided by single-digits, and the with the familiarity, these teams normally play close games. The talent has changed over the years, but with Coach Hornacek on board and the game-winner by Bledsoe earlier this year the stakes are always high with these two teams.
Head-to-Head (This Season)
Gordon Hayward: 14.5 PPG 8.5 RPG 7.0 APG 37.0 FG% (2 games)
Eric Bledsoe: 18.5 PPG 5.5 RPG 2.5 SPG 42.3 FG% (2 games)
These two will spend very little time guarding one another outside of switches on pick-and-rolls, but they have done damage against each other in different ways. Hayward has been able to do a little bit of everything, but is struggling to score in an efficient manner against the Suns athletic wings. Bledsoe is causing havoc, creating turnovers, and overturning Hayward game-winners. Should be fun.
(Again, both players do not have contracts heading into restricted free-agency this summer)
Potential Jazz Inactives: Andris Biedrins (Left Ankle, Out)
Marvin Williams vs.The Morrii
Whether Williams is starting (like last night) or coming off the bench he will have to match the versatility of the Morris Twins at the three and the four throughout the night. In a sense Williams is the Jazz version of the Morris Twins with his ability to stretch the floor as a four and athleticism as a three on the perimeter.
Markieff will put pressure on him inside with his new-found aggressiveness and Marcus can do the same with the way he has been stretching the floor as of late. If the Morrii can maintain their efficiency tonight they should win this individual battle.
Interesting Stat: 24.0
That is the average age of the Jazz starters, which is sort of like looking through the window at what Suns fans were looking for this year from their team. Instead of forcing Archie Goodwin and Alex Len into the starting line-up the team has their best middle aged veterans out there (27.0 average age) leading to a surprising start.
Meaningless Stat: 2-15
The Jazz are 2-15, but six of their losses were by 10 points or less and they are getting their team together on the court for the first time all season. It is a little misleading, but they are still neck-and-neck with Milwaukee for the Most Likely To Loss To A D-League team this year.