Suns-Jazz Home Preview
The Utah Jazz blew a double-digit halftime lead against the Phoenix Suns in their first game after Jerry Sloan's abrupt resignation, a loss they've had three days to digest.
After a woeful second-half performance Sunday, the Suns know how the Jazz feel.
Utah tries again to get coach Tyrone Corbin his first win in Tuesday night's rematch in Phoenix, where the Suns are also eager to move past a difficult defeat.
The Jazz (31-24) fell 91-86 to Chicago on Wednesday night, then lost Sloan - the league's longest-tenured leader at 23 years as a head coach - the next day.
The team handed the reins to Corbin, whose debut was going quite well through 24 minutes. The Jazz led by 15 late in the second quarter, but watched that cushion disappear just 4:17 into the second half before going on to lose 95-83.
"It was very emotional to start the game and we played off of that, but eventually it ran out," forward Paul Millsap said. "Mentally, the guys were drained. It's been a tough few days with the losses and what happened with coach on top of that."
The Suns (26-26) outscored Utah 51-27 after halftime to secure their sixth win in seven games, and they appeared to have a prime chance to pick up a fourth straight victory Sunday against visiting Sacramento.
This time, though, it was Phoenix that surrendered a halftime lead. The Suns led by seven at the break and three after three quarters, but the Kings scored 35 points in the fourth to escape with a 113-108 victory.
Coach Alvin Gentry was shaking his head after a loss that dropped Phoenix further behind Portland for the Western Conference's eighth playoff spot.
"It's one of those losses that you are going to look back at and it's going to hurt," Gentry said. "... Now, we got 30 games left and we got to try and find a way to win a ton of them."
The Suns haven't had trouble beating Utah lately. A victory Tuesday would give Phoenix its first five-game winning streak in the series since a seven-game run from March 3, 1982-March 29, 1983.
The Jazz have been held to 90.8 points per game in the last four losses while shooting 40.8 percent, and Deron Williams has struggled as much as anyone. He's averaged 17.3 points but made only 32.3 percent of his shots.
Steve Nash hasn't been dominant against Utah, averaging 14.0 points and 9.0 assists during the streak. Yet, Hakim Warrick, who scores 8.8 points per game, has averaged 17.0 in two victories at Utah this season.
The Jazz will be shorthanded as they try to hand Corbin his first victory. Forward Andrei Kirilenko is out after leaving in the second quarter of Friday's loss with a sprained right ankle.
Utah outscored the Suns 36-20 when Kirilenko was on the floor.
Starting guard Raja Bell (strained calf), who spent 3 1/2 seasons with Phoenix, and backup Ronnie Price (sprained toe), meanwhile, are game-time decisions. Bell scored 15.5 points per game in his last four - 7.1 above his average - before sitting out Friday.
One thing Utah can't afford to let Phoenix do Tuesday is win the battle of the boards. The Suns edged the Jazz 47-45 on the glass to improve to 13-1 when they hold a rebounding advantage.
They fell to 12-23 when they're outrebounded after Sacramento held a 51-36 edge Sunday.
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