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Suns Run Away from Jazz
By: Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
It only takes one win to get rolling.
As of Tuesday, the Suns were mired in a seven-game losing streak and there were a bevy of grim faces lurking around the locker room. Now on Friday, two days after knocking off the third-best team in the West in Memphis, it’s all smiles in the locker room as the Suns rolled over a tough Utah team, 99-84, at home for their second-straight win.
At shootaround, one could have predicted this outcome. The team was loose and confident, displaying a joviality that’s typically common amongst Suns head coach Alvin Gentry’s clubs. While the win could’ve been predicted, it was the decisive manner in which it was executed that was most effective.
“I thought we did a great job of moving the basketball and I was really happy because at half we had 22 baskets and they were assisted on 16 of those,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. “So that tells me that we are moving the basketball and doing the right thing.”
From the outset, the Suns were in control of the game. Phoenix sprinted out to a 12-point lead over Utah behind 10 first-quarter points from Goran Dragic.
The Suns stretched their 12-point lead to as many as 20 in the second quarter. In the Suns’ November 10 defeat in Utah, they were outrebounded 52-37 and surrendered 16 more points in the paint.
It was a different story Friday as the Suns were only outrebounded by four and notched six more points in the paint than their counterparts. The Jazz, who are the eighth-highest scoring team in the league and seventh-best in three-point percentage, were held to just 40-percent shooting from the floor and 27-percent shooting from behind the arc on the night.
Much of that poor shooting could be attributed to double-teaming Jazz big man Al Jefferson. Jefferson, who posted 27 points and 14 boards against the Suns on November 10, shot 6-of-16 from the floor and totaled only 14.
Out of the double-teams, the Suns also did well in closing out the 3-point shooters and shoring up their defensive rotations.
“In this game we doubled from the beginning and said that we weren’t going to let him beat us,” Suns swingman Jared Dudley said.
Dudley continued his dynamite play offensively, draining 9-of-12 from the floor to pour in 22 points. Dragic finished up the night with 17 points and five assists.
Marcin Gortat held down the paint by racking up 12 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and two blocks, while Michael Beasley (11 points) and P.J. Tucker (10 points) rounded out the rest of the Suns in double figures.
The Suns win marked their fourth-straight home game over Utah, while simultaneously snapping Utah’s four-game winning streak.
Phoenix also extended its streak to 14-straight home games of putting up 100 or more points against the Jazz. On Monday, the Suns will host the Kings.
JD on the Rise
It’s good to see Dudley finding his groove again. The 6-7 swingman has scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games and eight of his last 10 games overall after starting the season slowly.
“We’re playing him as a 3-man,” Gentry said, “which is a little bit better position for him. That’s where he’s had his most success.”
So with Dudley coming into Friday’s game shooting 52 percent from the field since being reinserted into the starting lineup, the Suns plan on taking advantage of his hot hand.
“We have to create shots for him and get him more shots,” Gentry noted. “And I think we’re trying to do that now.”
On Friday, JD was 9-of-12 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from behind the arc to total 22 points.
“I think guys know that I can score if I’m open,” Dudley said. “They trust that and they trust me to be unselfish.”
Gortat Solves Struggles
Coming in Friday’s contest against Utah, Gortat had been struggling, especially against the Jazz and their formidable front line. However, the “Polish Hammer” took his first steps towards getting back on track.
Before the game, Coach Gentry addressed the problem.
“I think what has happened is that he’s thinking too much,” Gentry said. “Whatever he has to do to play well, he has to do that.
“I don’t him thinking that he has to be this real physical player if that’s not who he is. I want him to play where he feels comfortable.”
In the two clubs’ first meeting this season, Gortat was 0-for-6 from the floor to total one point. Tonight, he posted 12 points.
Gentry has been stressing to Gortat is that when he’s not shooting well that he can’t let that effect the rest of his game. He heard the message Friday, tallying 14 rebounds, three assists and two blocks when his shot wasn’t falling.
“I have been lifting a lot recently and I feel stronger and more energetic,” Gortat said of his spirited performance Friday. “I was able to run and bang with these guys and we all have respect for Al (Jefferson), but in the course of 48 minutes he’s not going to be able to keep up with me.”
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