Gortat is going to have to match Jefferson's output, or at least come close, so that Nash and co. can win the game on shooting.

The Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz are similar in some ways and polar opposites in many others.

While the Utah Jazz boast the league's most prolific front line, they give up as much as they score and their backcourt play is generally below average. Utah's front line is 1st in the league in points per game (65.4), 3rd in rebounding (35), 3rd in steals (4.9), 7th in blocks (4.7) and 8th in free throw attempts (15.9).

Yet as good as the Jazz are on the front line, they are barely above .500 as a team and needed overtime to beat a Magic team whose tallest front-line player is 6-foot-8 Glen Davis. The Jazz's prolific front-line gives up a lot of points, and their backcourt scores the league's 4th fewest points per game while giving up the 3rd-most backcourt points per game.

This plays right into the Phoenix Suns' hands, despite the injuries to Grant Hill and Channing Frye. The Suns live on the perimeter. While the Suns are only 18th in frontcourt scoring and efficiency, they are 5th in the league overall in backcourt play. Steve Nash, Sebastian Telfair, Shannon Brown and Michael Redd should have a field day.

When you look at Phoenix and Utah in totality, though, their results are very similar. Their total team offenses are pretty good overall (top ten), while their total defenses are below average (bottom ten).

For the Suns, the key to Tuesday's "play-in" game against Utah will be to win the perimeter matchup by more than they lose the frontcourt matchup.

Let's take a closer look at the two earlier games against the Jazz, both won by Phoenix.

Suns win 120-111 on March 14, in Phoenix

When the Suns played Utah on March 14 in Phoenix, the Suns frontcourt held its own against the Jazz frontcourt, while the Suns guards demolished the Jazz guards. Jefferson and Millsap scored 36 points and grabbed 17 rebounds between them in 63 game minutes, but they were a collective -34 for the game. The Jazz bench made the game somewhat close in the end, led by C.J. Miles and Earl Watson.

Channing Frye had 26 points in that game (5-10 on 3-pointers) and Marcin Gortat had 25 and five to keep pace with the Jazz bigs. Markieff Morris did not play at all in this game -- out sick, I believe.

Suns win 107-105 on April 4, in Utah

This was the Channing Frye bankshot game, if you recall. The Jazz starters were storming back in the 4th until Frye hit that turnaround bankshot 3-pointer to seal the lead. Prior to that, though, Frye was a relative dud in this game. He had only 13 points and four rebounds in nearly 30 minutes.

Overall, this game was a total opposite of the March 14 game for both teams. This time, the Jazz's starters (mainly their frontline of Hayward, Jefferson and Millsap) dominated the Suns starters. Watson and Miles were very good in the Jazz starting lineup at the guard spots, holding their own against the Suns' starters.

It was the Suns' bench that made the difference. Morris, Redd, Telfair and Lopez were all good that game, as they have been most of April.


The Suns' prolific offense (specifically their guards) won each game, and will need to do that again on Tuesday night.

Markieff Morris, who played well in his only prior game against the Jazz bench, will have to step up in Frye's likely absence.

But most of all the Suns backcourt of Steve Nash, Shannon Brown, Michael Redd and Sebastian Telfair will have to dominate the Jazz backcourt of Devin Harris and Demarre Carroll. Jared Dudley will have to approximate Gordon Hayward's contributions. And Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez will have to just stay alive against the Jazz bigs.

This will be a high-scoring affair, with both teams much more interested in their offensive mismatches than in their defenses.

What's your feeling today about the Suns chances against the Jazz tomorrow?

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PHOENIX — The possibilities of injured Phoenix Suns forwards Grant Hill and Channing Frye playing in Tuesday’s must-win game against the Utah Jazz remain uncertain. Hill is still on the...

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(SB Nation Arizona, Seth Pollack) After weeks of important games where Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry refused to use the "must win" tag, he broke down and admitted that he told his team that yes, Tuesday's game against the Utah Jazz, does indeed qualify. Of course, he also pointed out that while they might not be mathematicians, they had pretty much figured that out on their own.

The importance of the game settled, the real question at hand is the injury status of key starters Grant Hill and Channing Frye.

Grant Hill suffered a setback with his knee after returning to the court on the 13th after missing the prior two weeks due to a minor surgery. He's not played since re-injuring his knee making a cut early in the San Antonio game on the 14th.

Hill was looking good to return Saturday against Denver but after his pregame routine he failed to pass several tests conducted by the training staff. He's experiencing pain in the knee and hasn't practiced since Saturday morning. He's officially being called a game-time decision for the Jazz game.

"We've been cautious and we'll continue to be cautious. If it feels good and passes a series of tests and there's no problems then we'll go, and if not I think it would be selfish of me to think that I can help the team if I'm not right," Hill said Monday.

Channing Frye injured his right shoulder in Saturday's loss to the Denver Nuggets in the second quarter. He suffered a subluxation similar to the injury that kept him out of seven games last March. Frye was not with the team on Monday because his wife went into labor around 3:00 a.m.

"That's one of those deals where in the next 36 hours we'll have a better feeling for what it is," Gentry said about Frye's shoulder injury.

Frye will be evaluated and if there's a chance he can play, he will join the team in Utah. If it's clear he won't be able to play, he will likely stay in Phoenix to be with his wife and new baby. Coach Gentry assumes that he would fly to Salt Lake City on Tuesday morning, if it looks like he can play.


Two games remain of 66 and the outlook is crystal clear for the Suns, win in Utah Tuesday then win again at home versus a Spurs team that probably won't have much incentive with the #1 seed wrapped up. The Suns could also potentially receive help from the Blazers on Thursday, but that seems unlikely since the Blazers have the look of a team that already has their cabana clothes packed for tropical vacations.

It's all very simple and it's all on the Suns to do it for themselves.

Standings and recaps from yesterday's games after the jump.

Western Standings

San Antonio Spurs 63 47-16 .746
Oklahoma City Thunder 64 46-18 .719
Los Angeles Lakers 65 41-24 .631
Los Angeles Clippers 64 40-24 .625
Memphis Grizzlies 64 39-25 .609
Denver Nuggets 64 36-28 .563
Dallas Mavericks 65 36-29 .554
Utah Jazz 64 34-30 .531
Phoenix Suns 64 33-31 .516
Houston Rockets 65 33-32 .508
Portland Trail Blazers 64 28-36 .438
Minnesota Timberwolves 65 26-39 .400
Golden State Warriors 64 23-41 .359
Sacramento Kings 64 21-43 .328
New Orleans Hornets 64 20-44 .313

The Rockets were eliminated from contention with their loss at Miami yesterday, and the Heat didn't even need Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh to do it.

Miami Heat Eliminate Houston Rockets- Win 97-88

The Miami Heat rallied in the 4th quarter and eliminated the Houston Rockets from the western conference playoffs on Sunday.
With Dwyane Wade and Chis Bosh out, LeBron James carried the Heat, scoring 11 of his game high 32 points in the 4th quarter and also added 8 rebounds and 5 assists in the victory.

In a game that had no direct impact on the Suns, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Lakers, moving the Spurs one step closer to the #1 seed and hopefully allowing them to rest players and generally not be overly concerned with winning when they play the Suns on Wednesday.

Lakers Complete Huge Comeback with Double OT Win Vs. Thunder

It was the most unlikely of comebacks, so it makes sense that it came from the most unlikely of places. Down by 17 near the start of the 4th quarter, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to try a lineup they never tried before. Ramon Sessions and Pau Gasol joined Steve Blake, Devin Ebanks, and Jordan Hill as Mike Brown searched under every rock for just a little bit of energy. He finally found some. When Kobe Bryant replaced Ramon Sessions with 8 minutes to go in the quarter, the Lakers were still down 13. That lineup would play the rest of the way, and at game's end, the result was a 114-106 double overtime victory.

Of course, the game will be best remembered for Metta World Peace's cowardly cheap shot on James Harden and subsequent lame "apology" for it. A lengthy suspension is in MWP's future and he richly deserves it.

Four days left in this crazy season and it's all on the line for the Suns. Not bad for a team that was left for dead by pretty much everyone in February.

(This is a post sponsored by Adidas)

Steve Nash is known for being a great athlete. But for those of us who have watched him throughout the years, we have also come to know him as a man who takes great pride in the appearance of his hair. We follically-challenged often find ourselves either envious or complimentary of a good head of hair. Nash has good hair, good enough to experiment over the years:

(the young rook out to make an impression)


(the Spice girls years)


(little mullet action)


(look at the body on those flowing, locks! Steve definitely uses conditioner)


(mature yet stylish in a Roman sort of way)


(Blue Magnum)

Images courtesy of U.S. Presswire & Getty Images

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