Suns 100, Jazz 86

Once considered long shots to even make the playoffs, the

Phoenix Suns are entering the postseason as the No. 3 seed in the

Western Conference.

The Suns looked much more like a contender than the

“overachiever” label they’ve carried throughout the season in a

100-86 win at Utah on Wednesday, locking up the third seed in the

West while sending the Jazz tumbling to fifth.

“It was a great way to finish the regular season – for a team

that was picked by many to be on the outside looking into the

playoffs or at the bottom of the playoff list,” said Steve Nash,

who had 11 assists in just three quarters. “To finish third in the

West is rewarding. And most importantly we’re playing well and

heading into the playoffs fairly good.”

Amare Stoudemire finished with 20 points and seven rebounds.

Channing Frye scored 10 of his 15 points in the second quarter for

the Suns, who capped their surge through the West standings by

ending Utah’s 10-game home winning streak and ripping away the

Jazz’s hopes of opening the playoffs in Utah.

Goran Dragic added 12 points and Jared Dudley scored 11 as the

Suns’ reserves outscored Utah’s 50-13.

Utah shot just 39 percent and committed 19 turnovers.

“Hopefully we’ve learned something from tonight and now we move

on,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.

Phoenix finished behind only the Lakers and Mavericks in the

West. Phoenix will open the playoffs Sunday at home against

Portland.

“No one really gave us a chance to be in the playoffs –

period,” Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said.

The Jazz finished fifth in the West and will open the playoffs

at Denver, which claimed the Northwest Division and No. 4 seed by

holding the tiebreaker over Utah.

Deron Williams led Utah with 24 points and Mehmet Okur finished

with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Carlos Boozer, Utah’s leading scorer and rebounder, was out with

a strained muscle in his rib cage and the Jazz struggled inside

without him, especially after Okur and Paul Millsap got in foul

trouble.

The Jazz get a few days to recover before playing at Denver on

Saturday night.

“It looked like they were on a mission and came in here and

outplayed us. Simple as that,” Williams said. “We just need to

put this one behind us. We had a chance to get the three seed but

we let this one slip away and we don’t have home-court advantage,

but there’s still a lot of basketball to play.”

Phoenix capitalized inside as the Jazz missed Boozer, but it was

the Suns’ outside shooting during a torrid second quarter that blew

open the game. Nash gave the Suns a 24-23 lead with a 3-pointer

late in the first and Phoenix never trailed again.

Phoenix flustered Utah throughout the second quarter and opened

the period on a 15-3 run, forcing six turnovers in the period and

outscoring Utah 29-17 for a 59-42 halftime lead. Frye scored 10 in

the quarter, hitting two of Phoenix’s four 3-pointers, and Dragic

added seven points.

“They’re the ones that got us separation. It wasn’t the first

group. It was the second group,” Gentry said. “They do a good

job. They totally believe each other. That’s why we put them in and

we leave them in for a long time sometimes.”

Utah’s frustration started showing when Williams got tangled up

with Leandro Barbosa while the two were headed up court and

Williams ended up shoving Barbosa to get him away. Barbosa was

called for the foul, but Williams was called for an offensive foul

six seconds later and the Jazz continued to unravel as the calls

went against them.

Utah shot 27 percent (6 for 22) in the second and stayed flat in

the third, relying mostly on outside shots as Stoudemire and former

Utah center Jarron Collins shut down the lane.

The meager runs the Jazz managed were always answered with

something more from the Suns, who rested Nash for all of the fourth

quarter.

Jason Richardson scored 12 for the Suns.

NOTES: Phoenix went 23-6 after the All-Star break. … Boozer

missed just his fourth game of the season for Utah. … The Jazz

honored late owner Larry H. Miller by retiring the No. 9 – his

softball number – and renaming the court at EnergySolutions Arena

during a halftime ceremony. … The Jazz were just 1-3 against

Denver this season. … Stoudemire scored 12 in the first

quarter.