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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?

Playoff_watch_medium

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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There has always seemed to be invisible lines in the sand drawn between the amateur nature of the NCAA and the professional entity that is the NBA. The lines are not visible, but over the course of time they have been felt, and one of the most profound lines has been in the transition of coaching from college to the next level.

Coaching elite the likes of Rick Pitino, John Calipari, and Fran Tarkanian all ascended to the professional ranks only to be humbled by the game they taught so well on the college level.

Situation and circumstance play more of a role in the missteps than basketball IQ in these situations.

Petino and Calipari road their hot names to the Northeast with Petino in New York Knicks (87-89) and Boston Celtics (97-01) while Calipari (96-99) took on the same role with the New Jersey Nets. Neither coaching great was equipped with all-star talent and therefore underachieved until their were relieved of their duties. The Nets acquired Stephon Marbury before letting Calipari go and and the Celtics reached the Eastern Conference Finals the year after Pitino.

Tark was the Running Rebels in the early 1990's, but took on the challenge of the San Antonio Spurs before they landed Tim Duncan and became a dynasty.

Since then the water has been lukewarm to college coaches looking to make the same transition. Recently teams flirted with bringing in Tom Izzo, Mike Krzvzewski, and Calipari again. The Charlotte Bobcats went in a different direction in hiring career assistant Mike Dunlap. Over the past 32 years Dunlap has sat on the bench with George Karl, Ernie Kent, Steve Lavin, George Raveling, and Ed Goorjian until he finally got the call to be the man.

The next name that is garnering some buzz is Iowa State University's Fred Hoiberg. The "Mayor" has done wonders in three years with the Cyclones.

He has earned that moniker based on his personal historic relationship with Ames, Iowa as a high school player, college athlete, and now rising star in the coaching ranks. Around the league Hoiberg is a name that has traction for potential head coaching jobs next season.

As an NBA player Hoiberg was a role player that played a role teams that made it to the Conference Finals three times with Indiana and Minnesota. His career came to an abrupt end with a heart condition due to an enlarged aortic root and a surgery. That led to the pursuit of a job on the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching staff, followed by a role in the front office, and eventually the head coaching job at his Alma Mater.

In his three years with the Cyclones they have gone 62-39 with two wins in the NCAA Tournament. Just last week they lost a heart-breaker against favorite Ohio State on a controversial call that would have vaulted them past the second round for the first time in 14 years.

The system Hoiberg runs is translatable to the NBA level as they get up and down the floor, shoot the ball from the perimeter, and allow their best player to showcase his skill-set.

Ask 2012 first round pick Royce White and/or current member of the Phoenix Suns if their former college coach can make it at this level. They both flourished in the system and their are a few current Cyclones that will be playing at the next level very soon in part because of the tutelage of The Mayor.

Over his ten year NBA career Hoiberg was peppered with the knowledge of Larry Brown, Larry Bird, Tim Floyd, Flip Saunders, and Kevin McHale. All with different styles and wisdom to pass along.

If the past 5-6 years are an indication of the potential Hoiberg has at landing a head coaching job soon, the odds are in his favor. Former role players that learn the game from watching it play out in front of them every night like Scott Brooks (Oklahoma City Thunder), Vinny del Negro (Los Angeles Clippers), Monty Williams (New Orleans Hornets), and Jacque Vaughn (Orlando Magic). Giving young coaches a shot is also the norm with Frank Vogal (Indiana Pacers) and Eric Spoelstra (Miami Heat) leading their teams to the top of the Eastern Conference; not to mention Mark Jackson (Golden State Warriors).

All of those teams took a chance on a new face with the reputation and after just two seasons five of the seven have paid off in unfathomable ways reaching the very apex of NBA coaching success.

About a third of the NBA is led by retread coaches with mixed results in their careers, most of them are under .500 this season and have the potential of losing their jobs this summer. One of the most admirable traits of Fred Hoiberg has been his loyalty. Will that loyalty prevent a team from prying him from his home as the unofficial, official Mayor of Iowa?

Prying him away will be no easy feat, but could ultimately land a team like the Phoenix Suns a coach for the next decade that can reinvent the wheel of basketball bring them along in the rebuild that has only just begun.

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