Suns 110, Jazz 94

Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry predicted his team would be a

work in progress this year.

While the Suns don’t have Amare Stoudemire anymore, they still

have Steve Nash. And at 36, the All-Star guard showed no signs of

slowing down.

He scored 18 points and had five assists to lift the Suns to a

110-94 victory over the Utah Jazz on Thursday night.

”It was undoubtedly an important game for us tonight,” Nash

said. ”We learned our lesson and held our composure for longer

stretches and, in particular, we held it together at the end of the

game.”

It wasn’t just Nash. Reserve Hakim Warrick added 18 points and

11 rebounds, while Jason Richardson chipped in 16 points, including

a pair of 3-pointers.

”Hakim was great on the glass and hustled,” Nash said. ”He

finished and got to the line. He did a lot of little things that

matter. But he also scored and when he can do that, it makes us a

better team.”

The Suns (1-1) led by as many as 18 points against a Jazz team

that played with more intensity than during a 22-point

season-opening loss at Denver on Wednesday night. But in the end

the Jazz still had trouble finding the basket.

The Jazz shot just 33.3 percent in the first quarter and 42.9

percent for the game. Utah was just 3-for-13 on 3-pointers while

Phoenix made 10 of 26 from behind the arc.

”They’re good at pushing the ball up the floor and those things

were difficult for us to handle,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.

”That’s the way their team is designed. If you don’t take good

shots against them, and you end up taking jump shots out on the

perimeter and you don’t make them, then they’re off and

running.”

Al Jefferson, who the Jazz hope can fill the shoes of Carlos

Boozer, scored 20 points to lead Utah (0-2). Paul Millsap added 19

points and 13 rebounds. Andrei Kirilenko also had 19 points.

”Things are not going our way. We’ve got to continue to stay

with it. I mean we’ve got to continue to get better,” Millsap

said. ”We got punched in the mouth twice in our first two

games.”

Raja Bell struggled in a game against his former team, scoring

just seven points on 3 of 12 shooting.

Nash scored 10 of his points in the first half to help the Suns

build a 58-42 advantage at the break.

The Jazz would pull within six points after Deron Williams’ dunk

off a feed from Kirilenko. But the Suns had an answer in Nash.

He ended a 9-0 Utah run in the third quarter with a driving

layup followed by a 3-pointer. Later in the quarter Channing Frye

fed Nash for another 3, giving the Suns a 78-67 lead.

”We played well, really extremely well defensively in the first

half,” Gentry said. ”We kept Deron out of the paint. He always

seems to hurt us with his dribble penetration.

Phoenix led 84-72 after three quarters and extended its

advantage in the fourth.

After being outrebounded by 18 at Portland in a season-opening

loss, Phoenix held its own on the boards against the bigger

Jazz.

”We’re an undersized team and we’re going to have trouble

rebounding against big, strong guys like Al (Jefferson) and (Paul)

Millsap,” Gentry said. ”But we fought hard and our perimeter guys

did a good job.”

”The big thing for me is that when things went a little bad for

us and they made a little comeback, we were able to withstand

that.”

That pleased Nash.

”We haven’t got the chemistry yet and there are no shortcuts,”

Nash said. ”It just takes time. You got to find the understanding

and be unselfish and conscious of the other players on the team.

But there is no easy formula.”

Notes: The Suns scored the first basket of the game and never

trailed. … Utah lost its last home game in the 2009-10 season to

Phoenix and have now dropped three in a row in the series. …

Williams had a technical foul and a delay-of-game that resulted in

a technical free throw for Nash.