Used to be that the Suns would frustrate their fans with inconsistency. Not a problem anymore. Phoenix is on a roll, one that has onlookers predicting (and lottery optimists hoping) loss after loss...

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Recap:

The game started out with both teams on fire as the Suns went 8-11 and the Jazz went 10-12 in the early going. Luis Scola and Markieff Morris provided the early pyrotechnics for Phoenix while Al Jefferson countered for Utah. The Suns shooting grew tepid after the torrid start as they connected on just one of their next seven shots. After scoring 18 points in the first 5:17, the Suns managed a meager five in the next 6:43 and the Jazz took advantage by closing out the period on a 17-5 run. Scola led the Suns with nine points in the quarter. Kendall Marshall, starting in his first NBA game in place of Goran Dragic (who was out due to tanking fatigue), had six assists. Gordon Hayward led all scorers with 10. Derrick Favors led all player with two charges. Score: Jazz 34, Suns 23

The highlight of the early minutes in the second quarter was lumbering giant Hamed Haddadi sprawled out on the floor hustling after a loose ball. Dude's trying. The Suns experimented with a Haddadi/Jermaine O'Neal lineup (which I don't remember getting much burn this season) to counter Utah's size inside. Shannon Brown and Diante Garrett also made rare appearances. Everybody was joining the fun! Amidst the roster shuffling the Suns kept hanging around. Phoenix clawed to within four at 36-40 and kept pace with a sputtering Jazz offense that managed just 16 points in the quarter before a last second three gave them a nine point lead headed into halftime. Score: Jazz 53, Suns 44

Both teams shot the ball well in the first half - Jazz 56.8% and Suns 51.3%. The teams combined to shoot 3-11 from three point range and 4-8 from the line. Utah led the stat to watch (points in the paint) 30-16. Ominous foretoken. Scola led all players with 15 points (on 7-9 shooting) in the first half. Marshall had the unusual first half stat line of zero points and nine assists. Jefferson had 14 points and five boards for the Jazz. The Suns played 11 players in the first half, with eight logging at least 10 minutes. Participation ribbon game?

The third quarter started with more (gasp!) outstanding play from Marshall, as he added six quick points to complement his double digit assist total. The Jazz stretched the lead to as many as 13, but couldn't put the game away as the pesky team from the island of misfit toys just kept on wolfing down Snickers. The Suns closed the quarter on a 13-4 run, capped by a three before the buzzer by Wesley Johnson after an offensive rebound, to close to within just four. Johnson had 10 in the period. Score: Jazz 75, Suns 71

And just when you thought the Suns were going to make this interesting... 17-2 Jazz run to start the fourth quarter. Ha! You must be pretty naïve to fall for that one again, although I really doubt most people who've been watching this season really thought the Suns would actually hold it together. The Suns have basically mastered, maybe even reinvented, the art of the fourth quarter collapse.

Final Score: Jazz 103, Suns 88

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Player of the Game:

Al Jefferson had 25 points and nine rebounds and was the catalyst in Utah's game plan to impose their will on the Suns in the paint. The Jazz dominated the "What to Watch" category of points in the paint 56-32.

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Comments of the Game:

Full tank mode tonight

Dragic out due to "Rest"

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Am I reading the box score correctly?

Kendall with 5 assists in the first 9 minutes?

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Oh boy, Mehmet Okur interview coming up!

So glad I tuned in tonight.

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They (Minnesota) haven't beaten the Lakers since Bush was President

THANKS OBAMA

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Can't stay long

Just stopped by to mention that Matt Harpring is a moron.

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Lindsey looks quite dignified tonight

That pink shirt is quite dapper

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Jazz can barely hold off a team trying to lose

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Suns ought to bring in that skinny white dude at the end of the bench.

He looks like he could play.

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The Jazz have needed a confidence booster

Hopefully they can step on our faces and rise up a bit

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The Good:

Kendall Marshall was given an opportunity and he capitalized on it magnificently to the tune of 13 assists (he did have five TOs if you just have to be captious). These are the types of performances that adumbrate favorably for Kendall becoming a solid player in this league. Not bad for his first NBA start.

Wesley Johnson continued his assault on looking like a real NBA player with 22 points and three steals. Keep on smilin' Wes.

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The Bad:

Or is it? Goran Dragic did not play in the game due to "rest", "fatigue" or some other concocted reason that seemed like a thinly veiled excuse for the Suns to have every possible opportunity to lose the game. I'm not taking an individual leap of logic in suggesting an ulterior motive to resting Goran (and I really don't disagree with the move, either), the fans know the deal.

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The Ugly:

The fourth quarter collapse. The Suns snuggle up to getting curb stomped in the fourth like it's a warm, fuzzy blanket.

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Final Thoughts:

The Suns came into this game wanting to lose (as an organization) and got what they wanted. It is far too convenient for Goran to miss this game due to whatever farcical explanation the team offered for us to believe there weren't machinations and innuendos involved. The fans aren't that stupid. Now my mental deficiencies, that's another story. At the same time, the team can't just come out and blatantly state their intention is to purposely reduce their chances of winning. I'm not advocating the strategy from a basketball purity standpoint, but I understand why that it is prudent at this stage and have no quarrels with the team's decision.

Successful night in many ways. The Jazz won, the Suns lost and Marshall showed promise in his professional debut as a starter. That's about the most desirable outcome I could have imagined going into the game.

Hide your kids, hide your wife and hide your husband because the Phoenix Suns are tanking out here. As Paul Coro reported from Utah prior to the Suns’ game against the Jazz, that the Suns front...

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Time: 6 p.m. MST TV: FSA As solidly locked into the eighth playoff spot as the Los Angeles Lakers appeared to be just more than a week ago, the Phoenix Suns’ double-dip in the NBA Draft lottery...

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When: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 6:00 PM local time (9:00 EST)

Where: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR

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Last Meeting:

The Jazz beat the Suns 87-80 on January 4th in Phoenix. Utah leads the season series 2-1.

The triumvirate of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors helped Utah dominate the paint, where the Jazz outscored the Suns 60-28. A fast start by the Suns was negated by a season-low nine point second quarter and 20 turnovers. Marcin Gortat led the Suns with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but was apparently unable to provide a defensive presence to stymie Utah's assault in the paint.

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Team Bios:

Utah Jazz: 35-36

Points per game: 98.0 (14th) Points allowed: 98.7 (16th)

Full team statistics.

The Jazz has been in full scale meltdown mode, hampered by nagging injuries and (mostly) a brutal schedule. By stumbling to a 4-12 record over their last 16 games, Utah now finds themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

Despite every effort to bungle away a playoff berth, the Jazz are still in a position to qualify for the postseason if they can reverse their trajectory. That's a big if based on their recent ineptitude. The schedule does foster some hope, though, as they have an easier remaining path than the teams competing against them.

The strength of the Jazz is a stalwart front line anchored by Al Jefferson (17.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game) and Paul Millsap (14.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game) and backed up by 20 year old Enes Kanter (11.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in March) and 21 year old Derrick Favors (9.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game). Look for Utah to attempt to exploit these matchups.

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Phoenix Suns: 23-48

Points per game: 94.4 (22nd) Points allowed: 100.6 (22nd)

Full team statistics.

The Suns have hit a rough patch that I like to call the 2012-13 season. At 23-48 the Suns will have to go 6-5 just to avoid the ignominious feat of finishing with (a tie for) the second worst record in franchise history. For those of you who haven't been paying very close attention (which includes the vast majority of Suns fans at this point), that ain't gonna happen...

The Suns are a meager 2-9 in their last 11 games, and have lost by an average of 17.6 points in the defeats. A bad team to begin with, the latest futility has been exacerbated by tanking a youth movement. Dave King detailed the salient decrease in veteran's minutes between February and March, which coincided with increased playing time for every player 25 or under, in his recent article "Just how much younger have the Suns gotten this season?"

Goran Dragic has been playing his best basketball of the season since the all-star break, racking up 11 double-doubles (including five straight) in just 18 games. Prior to this impressive stretch he had just four in 53 games. Four. Goran even had his first 30 point game of the season on Sunday against Brooklyn. His improved play hasn't translated to more Suns wins, though, and his numbers were actually worse in the last two Suns wins (15 points and 5.5 assists) than they were in the last nine losses (15.4 points and 9.4 assists).

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What To Watch For:

Points in the paint. In Utah's two wins they outscored the Suns in the paint 112-64. In the Phoenix's win they outscored the Jazz in the paint 48-42.

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2013 Lottery Watch

The Suns (23-48) are poised to finish in the top five in the lottery positioning barring a monumental collapse. It appears the quest for third has become a three team race, with Detroit (24-48) and Cleveland (22-47) as the other two combatants.

The Suns also appear to be on their way to stultifying critics that picked them as the second worst team in the West... by finishing dead last. Shows what they know.

Perhaps the more intriguing race (though not necessarily as important) is another tantalizing trifecta. So what order will the Lakers, Mavs and Jazz finish in?

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This race is going to come down to the wire and could end up being a photo finish. Utah needs to avoid going 0-2 on their upcoming away/home back-to-back against Portland and Brooklyn. Dallas needs to navigate a tough four game roadie at least 2-2. The LA/Dallas game could be pivotal. The possible X-factor? Portland has four games left against these three teams...

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The Final Word(s):

As the season reaches its climax every game matters. Draft positioning is on the line for Phoenix, which could be of paramount importance in preventing recurrences of this historically woeful season. Not only do we get a chance to watch the Suns with rapt attention to discover how the plot unfurls, but we also get a chance to cheer on the Wolves as they attempt to rip the Lakers cold, dead hearts from their vile, pestilence ridden chests (metaphorically speaking... or am I?).

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