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Tonight, the 8-15 Phoenix Suns will take on the 13-10 Utah Jazz at home. The Suns are coming off their most impressive win of the season thus far after beating the Memphis Grizzlies, one of the best teams in the league, and breaking a seven-game losing streak. However, the Jazz are also coming off a very impressive win of their own against one of the other best teams in the league, the San Antonio Spurs.

The good news for the Suns is that they appear to be healthy once again, with Goran Dragic, Jermaine O'Neal, and PJ Tucker all returning to form and contributing significantly to the Suns win over the Grizzlies. They will also be playing the Jazz at home in Phoenix--a much different situation than having to face them on the road. Do the Suns have what it takes to string together another quality win tonight?

When: Tonight, 7pm MST/9pm EST

Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona (locally), NBA League Pass

The History:

  • This will be the 160th meeting between the two teams with the Suns leading the all-time series 86-73.
  • The Suns have won 56-22 against the Jazz at home.
  • LAST MEETING: In Utah November 10, 2012, Jazz beat the Suns 94-81

Probable Starters:

Goran Dragic vs. Mo Williams
Shannon Brown vs. Randy Foye
Jared Dudley vs. Marvin Williams
Luis Scola vs. Paul Millsap
Marcin Gortat vs. Al Jefferson

Keys to a Suns Victory:

Momentum:

The Suns are coming off a much needed feel-good game against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Suns need to try to build on that momentum in hopes that it can carry them through to another win at home. The last thing the Suns can afford to do is start off flat, as has been their modus operandi so far this season. If they can start the game aggressive and with crisp execution on both ends of the floor, they should be able to pick right back up where they left off.

Defense Wins Games:

Especially for teams who lack a superstar or a true go-to scorer. As the Suns showed against the Grizzlies, they have the ability to be a good defensive team when everyone is on the same page. The Suns simply don't have the firepower to outscore their opponents any more...those days left with Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion. However, the Suns can still win games with defense, and that is exactly how they will need to win tonight's game as well.

Dudley and Tucker:

Although Jared Dudley has been frequently moved around between the starting unit and the bench as a shooting guard, Alvin Gentry may have finally found the best place for him. Dudley has only been playing as the starting small forward for two games now, but he has been much more effective in that role than in either circumstance as a two-guard. Dudley was the x-factor against the Grizzlies, and for the first time this season showed that energy and hustle that earned him the "junk-yard dog" moniker just seasons ago.

As for P.J. Tucker, the Suns desperately need his defense and hustle, and missed it badly the past few games when he was injured. Now that Tucker seems to be healthy again, he needs to continue playing at 110% on defense and being around the ball to get rebounds and offensive put-backs. If both he and Dudley can have a similar performance against the Jazz that they did against the Grizzlies, then I like the Suns chances a whole lot more.

Battle of the Bigs:

Marcin Gortat has been the Suns biggest enigma this season--looking great at times, but more frequently, looking either out of sync or uninspired...or both. Jermaine O'Neal has been great off the bench, but he is not meant to be relied upon to play starter minutes. The Suns need Marcin Gortat to step up tonight against the strong and crafty Al Jefferson and not only provide poi ts in the post, but also the kind of defense that Gortat is capable of playing when he's motivated to do so.

Likewise, someone has to step up against Paul Millsap as well. Luis Scola certainly isn't known for his defensive abilities, outside of his ability to take charges. However, he's certainly been playing better defense than Markieff Morris so far, and he will need to give his best effort against Millsap who has averaged 22.6 points and 10.3 rebounds over his last three games. The Jazz certainly have the front court advantage, so it will take a great effort by the Suns on both ends of the court to win this match-up.

Bench Bunch:

In my opinion, the greatest advantage the Suns have against the Jazz is their bench. The Suns will likely see substantial minutes from Sebastian Telfair, PJ Tucker, Jermaine O'Neal...each of whom are known for their defense and hustle on the court and their ability to help close out games in the fourth quarter. The Jazz' best bench player by far is Gordon Hayward who plays starter minutes as a sixth man. Both Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors can also get hot on occasion, but the Suns should be able to win the match-ups of the second unit as long as Hayward is held in check.

The Bottom Line:

It's hard to say if Wednesday's game against the Grizzlies was just a fluke, or a culmination of the Suns starting to form a new identity. The safe bet is to say they just played a good game--after all, they certainly haven't shown that they can play at that level with any sort of consistency thus far.

However, if Alvin Gentry and the Suns can take what worked for them Wednesday night and translate it into their new identity--along with the adjusted line-ups and minutes for players who have earned it, and players who have not, then maybe the Suns can tack on another impressive win tonight. The Suns certainly have the ability to win this game...Time will tell if they have the resolve.

Phoenix Suns 99, Utah Jazz 84 PHOENIX — With their gritty, last-second 82-80 win over the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night, the Phoenix Suns crossed off quite a few things on their wish...

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After threatening to set league records (in the wrong way) for three-point shooting defense, the Phoenix Suns are lately enjoying a regression to the mean by their opponents.

Across the league, teams make an average of 35.8% of their three-point attempts in the 2012-13 season. After allowing a league-high 43% over the first 18 games of the season, the Suns have limited opponents to only 29% over the last six games (22 for 79).

Even against a Memphis team that screams for double-teaming in the post, Alvin Gentry was not about to allow the Grizzlies to rain down a bunch of threes.

"We still are going to try to stay away from freeing up 3-point shooters," he said before the game. "You got to pick your poison."

Memphis made only 2 of 10 three pointers in the game while also limiting Randolph's domination by mixing in a zone defense that the Suns had not sported much at all this season. During the game-turning run in the second quarter where the Suns fought back from an 11-point deficit, the Grizzlies scored on only 3 of 12 possessions for 7 points in the last 8 minutes of the second quarter.

"We played a zone some," Gentry said afterward. "But we just weren't gonna run around and spread our defense out where they could start making 3-point shots. We tried to limit the 3-point shooting by playing Zach straight up."

While the Suns three-point defense appears to have improved, it has had little if no impact on the bottom line. Their defensive efficiency has not moved an inch (109 points allowed per 100 possessions) and they lost the first four of those five games.

Tonight's opponent, the Utah Jazz, make nearly 38% of their threes on the season so this good trend by the Suns will be interesting to watch.

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Some people loved them. Some hated them. Now that debate will be reignited as the Phoenix Suns announced Wednesday that the team will wear the all black retro uniforms from mid to late 90's for ten games this season.

SUNS GOING RETRO WITH BLACK UNIFORMS | THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE PHOENIX SUNS
One of seven NBA teams chosen to go retro for select games this season, the Suns chose the popular jerseys with the large, bright sunburst across the chest that were worn for occasional road games from 1994-2000.

Here's a link to a photo gallery on Suns.com showing some more pics of the players wearing black.

The dates for the retro uniforms include seven home games and three on the road:

Jan. 30: Suns vs. Lakers
Feb. 10: Suns vs. Thunder
Feb. 12: Suns @ Lakers
Feb. 22: Suns vs. Celtics
Feb. 24: Suns vs. Spurs
Feb. 27: Suns @ Spurs
March 13: Suns @ Rockets
March 18: Suns vs. Lakers
March 24: Suns vs. Nets
March 30: Suns vs. Pacers

I've seen fans over the years ask for this. Now it's happening and I'm guessing the reaction will be mixed. Let's vote and find out!

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(photo Courtesy Suns.com)


Poll
Do you like these retro black Suns uniforms?

  304 votes | Results

Suns-victory

As the inimitable Paul Coro puts it:

Suns defeat Grizzlies to end skid | Paul Coro | azcentral.com and Arizona Republic

Goran Dragic's inner fire stays lit, but it had been raging during a seven-game losing streak.

The Suns point guard said, "I feel like scum," after the streak started with the franchise's third-worst blowout ever in Detroit. The trip ended in Memphis with Dragic missing a possible game-cinching free throw and getting trapped on a potential game-winning play. And before the streak went to seven with Dragic watching in illness from home, he hit his tipping point when he missed an open layup to tie against Dallas.

When the mild-mannered point guard got to his locker after the Dallas loss last Thursday, he went Hulk and ripped his jersey off his body, splitting the "SU" from the "NS." Memphis did not like him when he was angry.

Gentry loved the defense, that Randolph did not score much in the game after getting 10 in the first few minutes after tipoff. It looked like a long night for the Suns, but they adjusted and Randolph only scored eight points the rest of the way.

The Suns even threw in some zone, which they had hardly used at all this season, and it was effective. The Grizzlies struggled to score in the final eight minutes of the first half (only 7 points after taking a 36-25 lead) with the Suns playing a lot of zone defense in that time.

Jared Dudley gave away a few secrets in his euphoria over the game.

"It was a big hack-fest out there. They weren't calling fouls for us, so we started fouling them."

Other notes from the win:

  • This was Goran Dragic's first ever game-winning shot. The shot came with .05 seconds left on the clock with Goran telling himself not to miss another gimme after juking Gasol out of his shoes on a drive to the basket.
  • Dudley (9), Brown (7), Dragic (5) and Beasley (6 in 10 minutes) combined for nearly as many rebounds by themselves as the Suns had in total on Sunday night against Orlando. They were active and aggressive on the boards against a really big team with Randolph and Gasol out there.
  • "They put a lot of pressure on us on our pick and roll. They started trapping on the sides and we weren't prepared to make the plays," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said after the game about the Suns swarming defensive effort.
  • The Suns overcame YET ANOTHER double digit deficit, marking their fifth win against 13 losses in those circumstances this season.
  • While this was the Suns first win against a team with a current winning record, it's the fourth victory this season over a team who had a winning record at the time of the game.
  • This was their third straight home win against the Grizzlies, each team winning on their home floor the last two seasons.
  • The Suns lead the league with SEVEN games decided by three points or less. They should be getting used to this by now.
  • Jared Dudley has scored 15+ points in consecutive games for the second time this season. Who says the Suns don't have a go-to scorer? LOL

Last but not least:

  • Speaking of Jared Dudley, he had a two-handed slam in the half court last night, knifing through defenders on the way to the hoop. I may be wrong, but I believe that's the first half-court dunk of his career. If anyone can find video of his dunk, post it here or email me with it.

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