One giant step forward for Utah, one small step back for Sunkind. Or, as Coach Alvin said, “It was more what they did than what we didn’t”
But although the Jazz richly deserved Alvin’s praise for their fourth period execution (no pun intended), an autopsy of the corpus delecti, so to speak, also revealed several all too familiar self-inflicted wounds, most notably failure to hold leads, points yielded off turnovers, and inability to keep teams off the offensive boards.
The Suns had a 13-point lead in the second period and a still had 11 of it at 7:43 in the fourth, but they wound up paying the usual price for failing to really put a worthy opponent away when they had a chance, which was in periods one through three when the visitors couldn’t hit a barn door from inside the barn.
Gentry said he had a premonition of potential problems at halftime when he looked at the stat sheet and noted his team had shot 65 per cent from the field to Utah’s 40 and yet led by only eight.
That trend continued through the third period, but in what was the most impressive fourth period performance by a visiting team in recent memory the Jazz hit 68 per cent, including a crushing 7 of 11 threes, dominated the boards, and all but completely shut down the NBA’s most potent offense.
The easiest, and perhaps most comforting explanation for that 41-22 fourth period is that the Suns came down with a case of the chronic back-to-backitis virus that has been so rampant in the league this year. Or, in layman’s terms, they simply ran out of gas.
However, Gentry refused to grab this lifeline, citing it as a fact but not an excuse. Still, the Suns did seem a half step slow down the stretch. And it didn’t help matters that they not only continue to be at or near the top in turnovers, but pay a higher price for them than any other team. The tendency is to look only a turnover totals, but a more significant number is points off them — and last night-s 13-24 deficit was painfully close to normal.
It also didn’t help that the Suns were without Goran Dragic (ankle). He often provides that extra push, especially in the second period when Steve Nash usually rests, that often turns 13 point leads 23-point ones.
The bottom line: As disheartening as the loss was, it was only one game. In fact, it was only one period. The good news is the Suns are still perched on the cusp of a fourth seed in the West, their next six games are at home, and there’s even a five-day layoff in that stretch to get ready for a visit from the Lakers. Of course, on the flip side, if this was indeed a prevue of a coming first round attraction in the playoffs, Suns fans might not want to see the movie.