Phoenix Suns Fall Flat to Utah Jazz After Fourth-Quarter Collapse. Next Up: Charlotte Tonight

Despite scads of losses lately, Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic has been on fire.

After scoring a career-topping 20 points vs. the Golden State Warriors over the weekend, the "Slovenian Supernova" (as Suns announcer Al McCoy has dubbed him) one-upped himself last night against the Utah Jazz. Netting a whopping 32 points for the evening, Dragic spent his 31 minutes of aggressive playing time firing off six of seven treys and fighting and flying to the basket.

But a one-man hot streak does not a winning team make (See Nash, Steve; and Stoudemire, Amar'e). So despite Goran's outstanding play, Phoenix fell to the Jazz, 124-115, at the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.

The Suns were shining through three quarters last night, playing fast-paced, high-scoring, classic run 'n' gun basketball against a smokin' Utah squad that had won seven of its last 10 games. The second period was especially brutal, as Nash and Dragic sparked a 45-point quarter as Planet Orange was shooting a staggering 56 percent by halftime. Better yet, they led 96-79 with mere minutes left in the third quarter. Nash even had a milestone night as he notch his 8,000th career assist.

Sadly, NBA regulations dictate that the fourth quarter must be played, and if you've been following Phoenix's folly this season, you know what happened next.

The Jazz got hot late in the third, going on a 12-0 run to cut the deficit to 96-91 through the speedy play of Carlos Boozer (21 points, 20 rebounds) and their own Eastern Bloc basketballer Andrei Kirilenko, who finished with 25 points.

It was a back-and-forth contest through the final period, with Wesley Matthews and Kirilenko helping their team tie things up, only to see Channing Frye and Dragic sink baskets to put the Suns back on top. Some tough defense by Utah down the stretch and an unanswered eight-point run spelled doom for Phoenix and resulted in the same old story for Suns fans.

There's little reason to expect that Phoenix's fortunes will be different against Charlotte (21-22) tonight at US Airways Center. The Southeast Division squad are almost kindred spirits with the Suns when it comes to inconsistant play.

For example, the Bobcats were red hot through the first part of January, going 9-1 (including a 125-99 spanking of the Suns a few weeks back) before succumbing to a three-game losing streak this past week. The addition of Stephen Jackson (and his clutch outside shooting and 20-plus points per game) in November, provided the gas for Charlotte's fiery play and also provided a little extra juice to such starters as Gerald Wallace, Flip Murray, and one-time Suns star Boris Diaw.

The Bobcats also boast one of the Eastern Conference's top defenses, to boot. So will it be a virtual repeat of the teams' first meeting from earlier this month? Since the Suns seem to almost always fall to teams with losing records, probably so, but tune in tonight just in case Phoenix finally decides to get its shit together. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. More info:

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.

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