With two games remaining, the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns aren’t
sure if they’re going to make the playoffs or head home early for
A Utah victory over visiting Phoenix on Tuesday night would
answer that question for both teams, but an eighth consecutive loss
by the Jazz in this series would give the Suns control of their
With a one-game lead over Phoenix (33-31) for eighth place in
the Western Conference, Utah (34-30) is in position to clinch its
first playoff appearance in two years with a fourth consecutive
victory. The Jazz are in this spot thanks to a 6-3 stretch since a
107-105 home loss to the Suns on April 4.
“All season long we’ve been fighting,” guard Gordon Hayward said
Saturday after Utah rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit for
a 117-107 overtime win over Orlando. “We needed this one
Utah’s playoff chances wouldn’t end with a loss Tuesday, but
falling to 0-3 against Phoenix this season would swing the momentum
to the Suns’ side.
If Phoenix wins Tuesday, it would lock up the eighth seed with
either a victory over West-leading San Antonio on Wednesday or a
Utah loss versus Portland the following night.
That scenario is far from a guarantee, as the Suns have split 10
games since their victory in Salt Lake City earlier this month.
Phoenix couldn’t keep pace with the Jazz on Saturday, falling
118-107 at home to Denver.
“We got to go into Utah – tough environment, tough atmosphere,
tough team – and we got to win,” guard Shannon Brown said after
hitting a career-high six 3-pointers and scoring 28 points. “That’s
basically what it comes down to.”
The Jazz have won four straight at home since the April 4 loss
to improve to 23-8 at EnergySolutions Arena.
Utah, though, knows that if it’s going to improve that mark, it
will have to limit Steve Nash’s opportunities to create
The two-time MVP, who is averaging 12.5 points and 12.5 assists
against the Jazz this season, hit two shots in the final 14 seconds
April 4 to guide the Suns to their fourth consecutive victory in
“Steve Nash is going to do the same thing (as Magic point guard
Jameer Nelson) and get his guys the ball,” said Jazz forward Al
Jefferson, the Western Conference player of the week. “But we just
have to grind it out and play hard and get some hands up in his
It’s uncertain if the Jazz will have to worry about Channing
Frye after he suffered a subluxed right shoulder Saturday. Frye led
the Suns with 26 points and nine rebounds in a 120-111 home win
over Utah on March 14.
Phoenix, though, could have Grant Hill available after he missed
the last four games with right knee inflammation.
Point guard Devin Harris leads the Jazz with averages of 23.7
points and 6.0 assists during their winning streak. Jefferson is
scoring 20.0 points per game with 15.3 rebounds during the stretch,
while Hayward is averaging 19.7 points.
Utah’s last victory in this series was 116-108 in Phoenix on
March 4, 2010.