TNT Curse? Phoenix Suns Blow 13-Point Fourth-Quarter Lead and Lose to Utah Jazz. Next Up: Indiana Pacers Here on Saturday
Maybe it was that cursed TNT curse? Phoenix has won just one of the last 16 games when playing on the network that employs Charles Barkley.
Because, based on 3 1/2 quarters of dominant play, we certainly thought the Purple & Oranage Gang would prevail.
But it wasn't to be, even after Barkley praised Coach Alvin Gentry during TNT's Suns-Jazz halftime show for ending the "girlie" era of run-and-shoot Phoenix basketball and emphasizing defense and rebounding.
The Suns were up by 13 points mid-way in the fourth period at US Airways Center when the Utah Jazz made their run. Utah got its first lead in the last minutes of the game, and went on to win 116-108.
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The 39-22 Jazz solidified their hold on fourth place in the NBA's Western Conference with the victory against Phoenix, still in fifth place at 39-25.
The Suns led by an average of 10 points for most of the night, but the Jazz hung within striking distance and poured it on in crunch time.
The stars for the Jazz were center/forward Mehmet Okur, who had 24 points, including two clutch three-pointers late; power forward Carlos Boozer, who killed the Suns in the paint, especially in the closing minutes, with 15 points and 15 rebounds; and burly point guard Deron Williams, with nine assists, 27 points, and five of nine threes.
Amar'e Stoudemire continued to play well for the Suns, with 30 points and seven rebounds, and Steve Nash turned in his usual solid effort, with 14 points and 15 assists.
But it was 37-year-old Grant Hill who stood out for Phoenix. Playing point guard when Nash was on the bench (backup Goran Dragic turned his ankle in Wednesday night's blowout win against the Los Angeles Clippers and sat out the game), Hill scored 17 points and played shut-down defense all game. He even dunked for the first time (by his own admission) since the late '90s.
But despite shooting 58 percent from the field to Utah's 45 percent, the Suns didn't have enough gas in the tank, after playing the night before in L.A.
The Jazz ultimately won the game by committing fewer turnovers, 11 to Phoenix's 18; pulling down more offensive boards, 19 to the Suns' 10; and hitting 28 of 38 free throws to Phoenix's 19 of 28.
It also helped Utah that the Suns' much-improved defense went to hell in the final period, giving up 41 points in that single quarter.
On the bright side, it was just the Suns' eighth home loss of the season, compared to 23 wins in the Purple Palace.
Next up: the Indiana Pacers here on Saturday. Indiana is the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference at 20-41, which means the current Suns should have no problem with them. The Pacers are led by forward Danny Granger, who had 30 points in a 102-79 loss to the Portland Trailblazers Wednesday night. Tip-off's at 7 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Net. Radio: KTAR 620 AM. For more information, go to www.suns.com.