Suns News

Breakdown of Suns-Jazz Showdown

Brown has averaged 15.5 points since Hill's injury.
(NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: April 23, 2012

The Suns 2011-12 season all comes down to this.

With two games remaining in the regular season, Phoenix will face Utah on Tuesday night on TNT to keep its postseason hopes alive. If the Suns win, they remain a playoff possibility.

A win Tuesday would allow the Suns to grab the eighth seed with either a victory over the Spurs on Wednesday or a Jazz loss against Portland the following night. A loss would mean that Charles Barkley and the rest of the TNT crew will break out the “Gone Fishin’” photos for the Suns.

But just to get to this point, the Suns players and coaches deserve a ton of credit. It's hard to believe that this team was six games below .500 at the All-Star break could possibly clinch a postseason berth with only two games left.

Not only is it testament to the character of this team that they are even in the position to make the playoffs, but it's also historic.

Phoenix would become the first Western Conference club since the 1996-97 Suns to earn a playoff berth after entering the All-Star break six or more games under .500.

Most experts are split on whether the Suns or the Jazz will come away with the win Tuesday, so let’s take an objective view of what each team has going for them.

Here are the cases both teams are making:

Pro-Jazz Argument

  • The Jazz have won three straight.

  • Utah is widely considered one of - if not the toughest - place for visiting teams to play at in the league. Thus far this season, the Jazz are 23-8 at home, a record only six NBA teams can best this season.

  • Suns small forward Grant Hill, who started the majority of the season, is still considered day-to-day as he recovers from surgery on his right knee.

  • In addition, Suns power forward Channing Frye suffered a subluxed shoulder on his shooting arm last game against the Nuggets. A subluxed shoulder, for those without medical degrees, is when the shoulder keeps popping out and back into the socket. Frye also did not make the trip with the team because he’s currently at the hospital. But he’s not hospitalized for his shoulder injury, he’s there because his wife is currently in labor with their second child.

  • The Jazz have begun to use a big lineup at the end of games. Besides 6-3 Devin Harris at the point, 6-8 Gordon Hayward slides over to play shooting guard, while 6-8, 253-pound Paul Millsap moves from power forward to small forward. 6-10, 289-pound Al Jefferson will either man the power forward slot with 6-11, 267-pound Enes Kanter at center, or Jefferson will play center while 6-10, 248-pound Derrick Favors assists him down low. With Frye and Hill either playing injured or out of the lineup altogether, the Suns lose size with their replacements. Meanwhile, the Jazz are already third in the league in offensive rebounding and fourth overall in rebounding.

  • In the month of April, Devin Harris is averaging 18 points, 5.8 assists and 1.9 rebounds a game, ranking seventh among point guards in points per game.During this recent hot streak, Harris is shooting 46 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range.

Pro-Suns Argument

  • The Suns have won seven-straight games over the Jazz, including a sweep of them last season.

  • Phoenix has won four consecutive games in Salt Lake City.

  • Last game in Utah, Steve Nash hit a game-winning jumper in the closing seconds to give the Suns a critical road win. In that game, the Suns were also playing without Grant Hill's services.

  • Only three teams in the Western Conference have better records since the All-Star break than the Suns. They are 19-11 in that span.

  • Phoenix is 8-2 in the game following a loss since the All-Star break. That includes a perfect 6-0 mark at home following a loss, whether it’s at home or on the road. The Suns lost to Denver on Saturday.

  • The Suns have found their rhythm offensively and have gone 18-6 this season when scoring 100 points or more, including 10-2 in their last 12 such games.

  • The Suns are playing their best scoring defense since 2003-04 and their eighth-best of all-time. Their defensive field-goal percentage this season also ranks in the top 10 in franchise history.

  • With Grant Hill out, Shannon Brown has filled in admirably, scoring 15.5 since the co-captain’s injury. That’s 6.4 points a game more than he was averaging before Hill’s injury and over five points a game more than Hill has been averaging this season.

  • It's only right that the Suns make a dramatic comeback to get into the playoffs. That's what they've been doing all season. In eight of the last 17 times the Suns have trailed by double digits, Phoenix has won the game.

There you have it. Those are both sides of the argument.

Now tune in Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on TNT to see which how the argument is decided.

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