Isaiah Thomas has helped move the Phoenix Suns to the brink of their best start in five years.
After surprising the reigning NBA champions, Thomas goes for another impressive display as the Suns attempt to avoid a letdown against the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
Phoenix (2-0) signed Thomas to a four-year free-agent contract in July after he spent his first three seasons in Sacramento. So far, the transition has been a smooth one, with Thomas scoring 23 points off the bench in each of the first two games, sinking 10 of 17 from the floor in Friday’s 94-89 win over San Antonio.
The speedy guard was even better from the field two days earlier, hitting 9 of 11 attempts – 5 of 7 from 3-point range – as the Suns routed the Los Angeles Lakers 119-99.
Thomas will likely return to his role on the bench, with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic – both point guards – maintaining their starting roles. Coach Jeff Hornacek used all three together to frustrate the Spurs, whose last field goal came with 5:09 to play.
"I think it puts a lot of pressure on teams with who they’re going to guard," Hornacek said. "All those guys just turned it up defensively and that’s what we need."
That unorthodox look has helped the Suns open 2-0 for the second consecutive season. They haven’t started with three straight victories since a season-opening four-game win streak in 2009-10.
Matchups with Utah (0-2) had been going well for Thomas, who averaged 23.7 points on 58.1 percent shooting during a three-game stretch before he was held to 10 points on 4-for-13 from the field in a 106-99 road loss for the Kings on Jan. 27.
Dragic and Bledsoe were both injured and missed Phoenix’s last trip to Utah, a 109-86 loss on Feb. 26.
The Jazz (0-2) are hoping to avoid a repeat of last season, when they dropped their first eight games en route to a 1-14 start.
After opening with a 104-93 home loss to Houston on Wednesday, they weren’t any better the next night in a 120-102 defeat at Dallas. Utah fell behind by 30 points in the first half and allowed the Mavericks to shoot 55.3 percent from the floor overall.
"It was tough," center Derrick Favors said. "Both of these teams are playoff teams and good teams. At the same time, we’ve got to play better defense."
Despite the slow start, Utah sees a bright future with Alec Burks, signing the guard to a four-year, $42 million contract extension on Friday that could be worth $45 million after incentives.
Burks has totaled 33 points through two games, hitting half of his 22 attempted field goals while going 4 for 7 from behind the arc. He averaged 14.0 points last season, nearly doubling his mark from his first two NBA seasons after being drafted 12th overall out of Colorado in 2011.
"We have great regard for Alec’s work ethic and dynamic athletic ability as well as his growth potential," general manager Dennis Lindsey said in a statement. "Alec is a young player with a unique skillset and true passion for basketball who consistently finds the gym and has displayed the characteristics and desire to continue to improve his game."
Utah has won four of five at home against Phoenix.