Suns 110, Jazz 94 The Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz enter tonight’s TNT matchup in a very similar situation. Both are coming off a loss at the hands of a Western Conference foe, as the Suns ran...

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UTAH & PHOENIX: OPPOSITE CLIMATES, SIMILAR SITUATION

It seems like yesterday that our peaking Phoenix Suns team marched into Energy Solutions Arena and dominated the Jazz in the last regular season game of last year to take the West's 3rd seed right out of their mittens.  I wax nostalgic and shed a tear - "Don't cry for me Planet Orange" - because I'm just as positive about this year's team as I was about last year's team to start the season.  

I hope to bring the bright side back to the Bright Side of the Sun.  (F you Scott Howard, j/k, kbye)

BUT WHAM! The summer of LeBron is gone, the season is upon us and we are a game deep on track to win 70 plus games this year!  I mean, if the Heat could start the season with a loss, we might as well lose the first and get that out of the way too right? (F you Jeff Van Gundy your voice is annoying, j/k...but really..)

In all seriousness - tonight's game #2 match-up against the Utah Jazz should be a blast to watch, there are some good parallels to decipher, some story-lines to watch, and there are two teams who just lost their season openers and are going to go at it Chuck-Norris-style and spinning-back-kick their way to their first victory of the season.

More amazingness after the break. Jump it fool!

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While it might be snowing in Salt Lake City right now, I'm laying out in my backyard in my underwear catching some sun rays in 80 degree weather while I type this.  BAM.  Phoenix and SLC might be on the opposite ends of the climate spectrum, but as far as their NBA franchises go they've got some similarities this season. 

The biggest and most obvious being: They both lost their All-Star power forwards this off-season.  The suns parted with STAT and the Jazz reinstated prohibition and dumped the Booze.  Just as it has been pretty obvious for our Suns team, the Jazz are also struggling to find "chemistry" and whatnot with their newly acquired players trying to fill the voids.  We saw Steve try to force it in crunch time - no easy pick and rolls without STAT and last night the Jazz struggled to fill the offensive shoes and presence of Boozer as they were rick-rolled hard by Nuggets.  [It was kind of sweet to watch considering the bitter taste the Nuggets left in my mouth this preseason - if they don't fall apart mentally again they could be a major force in the West this year]

Another interesting parallel:  Both the Suns and the Jazz lost their season openers to vindictive teams that had been ousted in the first round of the Playoffs last year.  The Suns lost to the emotional Blazers and their amazing fans who we sent home crying in round one - and the Jazz lost to the Thugs that they put out of their misery as well in the 1st round last year.   Kind of funny if you ask me.

Now for some story-lines I'll be watching for -

  • Hakim Warrick might not like the cold, but this guy we know named 'Frosty' LOVES SLC and playing against the Jazz in general.  In 3 games last year Goran Dragic went 15-25 (60%) from the field and 7-10 (70%) from down town!  He also had his insane career game where he dropped 32 points on the Jazz IN SALT LAKE CITY.  I'm looking for Goran to have a nice game (he has been playing very well so far  this season anyways) and I'm positive the Utah fans know his name and what he can do.
  • Rebounding (by default... ALL DAY EVERYDAY): Will the Suns' gang rebounding be successful?  Will Lopez step up and grab double digits?  I like what I've seen from Frye so far this year - he's been pretty aggressive on the glass.   In the 2 preseason meetings we had with the Jazz though we lost both games we won the rebounding game in the first meeting 46-39 then lost the second game battle 51-34.  The Suns allowed a ridiculous number of offensive boards to the Blazers last game and that was hard to watch - I'm positive Gentry and the Suns will look to improve on this aspect of their team game the most. Also I'd note - the Jazz had their trash handed to them on glass last night as well... so we'll see what happens.
  • Turnovers: this was the other contributing factor to a first game loss for both the Suns and the Jazz.  TOO MANY FREAKING TURNOVERS.  I doubt Steve Nash will stock pile 9 this game... or ever again - so I'm not too concerned.
  • Grant Hill: Another interesting fact I looked up was that Hill has amazing career numbers against the Jazz. He's averaged over 17 ppg on 46% shooting in 25 career games.  You know as a Captain and PIMP he's going to come out and inspire his teammates by putting his stamp all over this game.
  • Clutch Time: The 18-1 run by the Blazers in the 4th was a fluke IMO - I'm not worried and it didn't even get me all that upset (and trust me - I get very emotionally unstable during games).  I know we don't have Amare - but look for Steve to lean more on JRich (who was on fire in that game) and others instead of trying too hard to do everything himself in clutch time.
  • Energy Solutions Arena: Voted the best home court advantage in the NBA by the GM's...  this has always been a tough place to play - But I'm confident that our guys will do fine having just played in Portland where they are also up there in great home court advantageness (yes I made that up). 
  • Sleepers: I'm not worried so much about AK47, D-Willy and big Al.  I worry more about CJ Miles, Watson, Paul Millsap and even the young rookie Jeremy Evans.  Don't sleep on these guys because they all can score in bunches and change the momentum of the game. 

These are the things I'll be looking forward to and paying attention to tonight.  What are some of the things you'll be looking forward to, anything different?

On a side note - if you happened to run into Maximus the Commander of the Gorilla Groupies this morning on the Light Rail, let it be known you encountered the fabled Eutychus. I'm the Rilla on the left - and I've been working with the Suns this week in promoting the home opener against the team who will not be named.  If you check out NBA.com and check the Suns videos - you might even catch me bustin' some moves in a video titled 'Suns Fans' posted a few days ago.  I'm the Gorilla with the ORNG headband in the video.  Keep your eyes peeled for my crazy mug this week - you never know where I'll show up.

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P.S.

If you're bored check out these links:

KTAR's Brian Gibberman's take on Tuesday's loss - Suns' Gentry breaks away from old habits

SLC DUNK - ahem.. congrats to our amazing BSotS readers - we easily doubled the number comments of our SLC bros in our respective opening night game threads... and this fool right here (me) wasn't even able to make it to the board!  HA!  Still we rise my friends.

Paul Coro's Blog - " It was a regretful opener. It got away from them in a hurry. They turned it over more than they assisted and lost on the road to a conference competitor. This was not just the Suns..."

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ValleyoftheSuns was founded exactly two years ago today as the Phoenix Suns were set to kick off the tumultuous 2008-09 season. My how time has flown and this blog has evolved from a one-man show to...

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Even though I suggested that I should shut up in this post, I'm going to do this thing one last time.

The difference between the team that ended the game Tuesday night in Portland and the team that ended the games last year was one player.  I won't name him, and I'm not calling him out.  He is what he is.

Two things I connected really got my panties in a bunch.

First, all the talk of "chemistry" and "assimilating" and "figuring things out" is bogus.  The game was lost in the last 5 minutes, and the only difference was that one guy being on the floor.  Don't tell me that it was a lack of cohesiveness or bus-ride-inspired Meat Hook Productions or JMZ channel reporting that caused the 18-1 run.  When Steve Nash said he needs time to "figure things out" what he means is that he's got to go back to the lab and figure out how he can make another group of players play their best.  Put diplomatically -- how to best use the talents and assets of his teammates.  Put bluntly -- how to cover up the weaknesses of his teammates.  He's played to the strengths and away from the weaknesses of his Suns teams every single year. 

I'm sure the mad scientist will figure it out again.  I don't know when, but "In Nash I Trust."  Even so, I'm not sure how far his brilliance gets the Suns  I can sort of relate.  When I coach kids, I always measure my effectiveness as a teacher by how good my worst player is (not by how good my best player, with God-given talent, instincts and athleticism happens to be).

Second, on letting Amare Stoudemire go.  I know that the concern were the last years of Amare's 5-year contract.  I also know that Indiana fans wished that the Pacers' FO hadn't maxed out The Drain's contract, even though they got a couple of good years out of that long-term contract.  Here's the difference -- the Suns were knocking on the door of a return trip to the Finals with the core returning, a formerly green bench becoming battle-tested, the smartest floor general in the game, a handful of tradeable commodities (how'd you like to see Hedo coming off the bench for Amare or Hill?) and a rabid hunger to return.

(Sidenote:  I liken this to Anquan Boldin's departure.  The fans gave the younger Bidwell a pass on this one based on recent success, but it was a mistake as far as team quality)

In Year 4 of Amare's contract ($20M), the Suns are also going to be paying Channing Frye, Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick a total of nearly $30M (I think Hedo's is a team option of $12M, half guaranteed, so that's not totally fair but it is close).  Point being is that the dollars in Year 4 have a chance to be just as bad and the results have a potential to be just as damaging to the team.  The difference is that in the first 2 to 3 years, the Suns can stay in the NBA elite with plausible dreams of reaching the Promised Land.  Now, the next 2 to 3 years are going to be filled with enjoyable basketball moments without a plausible chance.


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