Randy Hollis: Utah Jazz: Age aside, Steve Nash still the Phoenix Suns' go-to guy

Published: Wednesday, April 4 2012 11:18 p.m. MDT

Sun's Steve Nash rallies his team as Utah's Paul Millsap prepares to shoot free throws in the final minute as the Utah Jazz are defeated by the Phoenix Suns 107-105 as they play NBA basketball Wednesday, April 4, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Sure, Steve Nash might not always be able to do all those terrific things he once did on the basketball court.

After all, as we know all too well, Father Time waits for no one.

And now, at age 38, it'd be foolish to expect Nash to continue playing at the incredibly high level he did back when the tough little guy from Canada was sweeping back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player awards in 2005 and '06.

But on any given night, when the game's on the line and his team needs someone to step up, the Phoenix Suns' ageless point guard can still find a way to do whatever it takes to help his team win.

Just ask the Utah Jazz.

On Wednesday night, with a raucous EnergySolutions Arena crowd screaming at him, they found out the hard way when Nash nailed two clutch mid-range jump shots in the final 14 seconds to lift the Suns to a tense 107-105 win, dealing the Jazz another devastating home-court defeat in their fading bid to earn a Western Conference playoff spot.

"You get the ball in his hands and you know he is going to get something good for his team," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said of the Suns' stellar playmaker. "He just gives you that confidence.

"He is who he is. He is a great player and he made great plays for them down the stretch. He made two big buckets to get them a win."

Nash finished the game with 13 points and nine assists — modest numbers by his high standards, but pretty comparable to his season averages of 12.8 points and a league-leading 11.3 assists per game. He is on pace to lead the league in assists for the sixth time in his career, and only one man — Jazz Hall of Famer John Stockton — has done it more (nine times).

But with the Jazz threatening to grab a valiant come-from-behind victory in the final minute, it was the old pro Nash who again stepped up and showed 'em the way.

Yes, very much like Utah's favorite son, Stockton, did so often back in the day.

With the score tied at 103, Nash hit a 17-foot jumper from the left baseline to give Phoenix a two-point lead with 14 seconds remaining. Then, after Al Jefferson's bucket tied it at 105 with 9.4 seconds left, Nash soon split a pair of Utah defenders and drilled a leaner in the lane to make it 107-105 with just 1.7 seconds to go.

And when Paul Millsap's potential game-tying tip-in was ruled after the final buzzer, the Suns had escaped with a narrow win which vaulted them ahead of Utah in the tight Western Conference chase.

"We ran a play to get Channing (Frye) a shot and then Michael (Redd) a shot, and neither of them got it," Nash said in describing the decisive play on the Suns' final possession. "The ball kind of fumbled to me.

"I was able to get (Paul) Millsap, I think, off his feet and I was able to lean in and just make one. I knew we didn't have a ton of time, but I didn't have to rush. I saw (Marcin) Gortat open under the basket, but I didn't want to mess around with it."

No, instead, he did the right thing and took the shot himself — just as has so many times in the past over his 16-year NBA career.

And in the end, all he messed around with was Utah's chances for making this year's playoffs.

Indeed, that's what old pros like Nash do, and like Stockton did before him — they find a way to win.

email: rhollis@desnews.com

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