Suns-Jazz Game Preview: April 4
Posted: April 4, 2012
The Phoenix Suns are doing their best to make a push into playoff position in the Western Conference.
One team standing directly in their way is the Utah Jazz.
The visiting Suns have a chance to move ahead of the Jazz in the conference standings with a seventh consecutive victory in the series Wednesday night.
After losing four of six games to end March, Phoenix (27-26) beat New Orleans 92-75 on Sunday then followed that with a 109-100 victory at Sacramento on Tuesday to surpass the .500 mark for the third time this season.
"We needed this bad," said veteran Michael Redd, who scored 16 points off the bench against the Kings. "This league is all about having rhythm and we got it, and got the win."
Though Phoenix has won 15 of 22, it currently sits 10th in the West. However, the Suns are one-half game behind ninth-place Utah (28-26) and 1 1/2 back of Houston, which owns the eighth and final playoff spot.
Phoenix has missed the postseason two of the last three seasons.
"We know every game is critical," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "You have to treat every game like a playoff game. This group understands that urgency."
The Suns have a chance to move ahead of the Jazz in the standings if they can run their series winning streak to seven games over Utah. Phoenix has won three of four on the road overall, and three in a row at Utah by an average margin of 14 points.
Phoenix continued to build momentum Tuesday as Marcin Gortat had 20 points with 10 rebounds and Steve Nash added 18 with 12 assists as the Suns used a 12-2 run in the fourth quarter to pull away in Sacramento.
Despite the victory, Phoenix players agreed that the club needs to show some improvement after blowing a 17-point first-half lead and allowing Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins to score a career-high 41 points and rookie Isaiah Thomas to finish with 25.
"It was definitely a tough game," Gortat said. "We still need to work our defense. We've got to play smarter, play harder. Don't let this happen."
The Suns allowed Utah to shoot 52.2 percent and outrebound them 42-34, but pulled out a 120-111 home victory March 14 by shooting a season-high 56.4 percent in the teams' only previous meeting this season. Channing Frye scored 26 points, Gortat had 25, Jared Dudley finished with 21 and Steve Nash added 12 with 16 assists to help Phoenix overcome a 13-point deficit in that contest.
Nash, who bounced back Tuesday after back problems limited him to four or fewer points in three of the previous four games, has totaled 36 points on 12-of-21 shooting in the Suns' last two trips to Utah.
The Jazz snapped a three-game skid with a 102-97 win at Portland on Monday. Paul Millsap had 31 points, including the go-ahead dunk with 1:11 remaining, and pulled down 11 rebounds while Gordon Hayward scored 20.
"We needed this win bad, and it showed how we played out there," Millsap said. "The will not to lose, the will to make it to that next level to get in the playoffs, it came out."
Millsap had 18 points and 10 rebounds at Phoenix last month.
Hayward has averaged 18.0 points in the last four games overall
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