The 2016-17 season has not been good to Phoenix. Despite having Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight healthy again, the team only has a record of 5-16 after their 112-105 loss in Utah on Tuesday night.
Gordon Hayward led the way for Utah, filling up the stat sheet with 28 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Rudy Gobert also played a big role in the Jazz victory by putting up a career-high 22 points to go with 11 boards and four blocks.
The Suns just didn’t seem to have an answer for the Jazz and never held a lead in the game. Utah got off to a hot start, leading Phoenix 33-19 after the first quarter and eventually increasing their lead to 20 at halftime. The Suns scored 60 points in the second half to give the loss the appearance of a close game, but the Jazz had control every step of the way.
While Phoenix did manage to out-rebound Utah, they shot an abysmal 33% on three pointers and only managed 14 assists with 17 turnovers. The Suns went without blocking a shot and allowed the Jazz to shoot 49% from the field.
Devin Booker led the Suns in scoring with 21 points on 9-13 shooting, but also turned the ball over a team-high 4 times. Phoenix had six players in double figures in the game, but that’s about as far as the bright spots go for the Suns.
Tomorrow night the Suns will look to bounce back at home against the Pacers, meanwhile the Jazz will hope to carry momentum into Thursday when the Warriors come to Salt Lake City.
The Suns are currently two games behind the 8th seeded Mavericks; but they are still celebrating today even after a loss yesterday. Offseason-acquisition Eric Bledsoe made his return to the Suns’ line up against the Cavs Wednesday night. He came off the bench and contributed 15 points and 9 assists to the stat sheet along with 2 steals. In his first action after missing 33 games, Bledsoe reminded all his skeptics what he was capable of and came back to play 32 minutes.
This next chunk of schedule is important for Phoenix, as seven of their next eleven games are against teams below the .500 mark. Though the Suns did recently just defeat the Thunder, they’ve hit a bit of a skid while the Mavericks, Grizzlies, and Warriors are all getting hot. Even the Knicks have been winners of five straight. New York fans must be happy with the Knicks’ recent winning as they’ve pulled within three games of a playoff spot this year and they’ll have Phil Jackson to pull free agents to Madison Square Garden and guide the Knicks deep into the postseason in the future (Knick fans hope, at least).
Gerald Green did not play well in Bledsoe’s return, going 4-14 and fouling out against the Cavs, and Phoenix couldn’t afford Green’s struggles with Tucker serving a one-game suspension for an altercation with Blake Griffin. Although Dragic scored 20 and had 5 assists, Cleveland still came out on top behind 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists from Kyrie Irving and a steady 19 point contribution from Spencer Hawes. Hawes went 3-4 from beyond the arc last night in a game where three point percentage was a real difference maker; Phoenix lost that battle by a large margin as they shot just 27% from behind the three point line while Cleveland made half of their threes.
Certainly as Bledsoe gets back up to game speed and plays among a very talented group of players in Phoenix, the Suns will make a push to make it to the playoffs. Being counted out in almost every game against contenders they play, every game has been like a playoff game for the Suns, and they aren’t backing down from the dog pile of a playoff scenario in the Western Conference.
While Phoenx recently defeated OKC behind a terrific performance from Gerald Green, they must hold back their sigh of relief another two games. They have back-to-back road contests against the Warriors and Clippers. The Warriors are just starting to heat up, going 8-2 in their last 10. The Suns will surely have a handful with Golden State’s diverse offensive arsenal. With only one game separating the Suns from the number 7 seed in the playoffs and watching the playoffs on TV, each of these next to games holds importance. In fact, every game down the ending stretch of the season holds importance for the Suns. With a hot streak, Phoenix could have home-court advantage for a playoff series – ironically the number 4 seed is currently home of the Clippers and only six games out of the Suns’ grasp. Wins against the 6th and 4th seeds, the Warriors and Clippers respectively, could bode well for Phoenix. There is no question that the Suns will come into these next to match-ups with a head full of steam after defeating the number 1 seed Thunder earlier in the week. Expect two very good games from a Phoenix team determined to make it to the postseason.