SALT LAKE CITY — A day after stuffing themselves on what was likely a Thanksgiving feast for many of them, Utah Jazz fans are still starving for victories.
And nowadays, when it comes time to give thanks, it looks like they may have to wait until next June's annual NBA draft before they finally have something to be truly thankful for again.
Hopeful for a second straight home-court win, the Jazz faithful were instead force-fed a disappointing defensive performance that set the table for a bitter-tasting 112-101 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
After the game, Utah coach Tyrone Corbin looked like a man who'd just eaten a heaping helping of humble pie.
"They made shots; I thought they got what they wanted," he said regarding the Suns' highly efficient offense. "They had us spread out; they got drives (and) they got the ball where they wanted to in the initial part of the offense. And when we collapsed (inside), they got open 3-point shots.
"I thought we would have a little more pep to our step after a few days off, and I thought we had a couple good days of practice. ... We've got to find our way back and we've got to give the effort that we did the other night against Chicago, more so than what we had tonight.
"I thought they were getting what they wanted too much," he said disgustedly, looking like a guy who'd just been given a tablespoon full of castor oil for his bellyache. "They were getting to where they wanted to too easily ... We were a step slow on everything for whatever reason. ... They'd get down the lane and then their outside shooters were open. We didn't take anything away from them. ... We didn't give our best effort tonight, I didn't think."
Although their defensive effort was a huge letdown, the Jazz offense showed some signs of life.
Marvin Williams scored 14 of his team-high 18 points in the first half for Utah, while Alec Burks added 16 off the bench. Derrick Favors scored 15 with 10 rebounds. Trey Burke contributed 13 points despite early foul trouble. And Gordon Hayward had 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Jeremy Evans was also in double figures for the Jazz with 10 points, which included some crowd-pleasing "stuffing," and he also had seven rebounds.
"They are a big transition team," Evans said of the Suns. "That was the focus of the game, to get back and get some stops. Coach (Corbin) said it better than anybody that they were able to do whatever they wanted to.
"We just have to come out more focused and try and get more stops, be more physical."
For Phoenix, which improved to 9-7 under first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek — the popular former Jazz player and assistant coach — Markieff Morris scored a game-high 23 points and Eric Bledsoe added 19, both off the bench.
"My team did a great job of getting me the ball," Morris said. "I got a lot of easy shots to get involved in the game. Those (Utah) guys did a great job of packing the paint, so we ran a lot of screen-and-rolls and got open shots."
Goran Dragic scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half, and he also handed out nine assists and had a couple of blocked shots, while Miles Plumlee had 15 points and 10 rebounds, with Gerald Green and Channing Frye chipping in with 13 points apiece for Phoenix.
"When we share the ball, we are really a dangerous team," Dragic said. "A lot of guys scored over 10 points. We played as a team and that was the main key."
Utah gave up more than 30 points in each of the first three quarters, with the Suns shooting a scorching 65.5 percent from the field over that span in building a 95-78 lead entering the final frame.
The Jazz limited the Suns to just 17 fourth-quarter points on 5-of-20 shooting, but by then, the damage had already been done.
With the loss, Utah falls to 2-15 overall and 2-6 at home, and the Jazz face the second game of this back-to-back against the Suns Saturday night in Phoenix.
Hornacek, whose Jazz jersey hangs from the EnergySolutions Arena rafters, displayed plenty of compassion for what Corbin and the proud Jazz franchise are going through this season.
"I know it's been tough on him here and I think he's been doing a great job," Hornacek said of Corbin, his former boss and fellow sideline jockey. "These guys are young guys that have been thrown together. None of these guys have had the responsibility that they're now being thrown into. To have to deal with that is pretty tough. I'll go talk to him after this and I'll see him again (Saturday)."
The Jazz jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead after the first two minutes. But history has shown us that no NBA game was ever won in the opening couple of minutes, and the Suns certainly had no problems playing catch-up.
Dragic scored nine quick points of his own to bring Phoenix back, and a flurry of three 3-pointers by Green over a two-minute span pushed Phoenix into the lead. Another 3 by Frye helped the Suns take a 25-20 advantage, and then it was Utah's turn to play catch-up.
The Jazz managed to regain a 33-31 edge at the end of the first quarter, thanks to a 3-pointer by John Lucas III. Utah grabbed a 35-31 lead early in the second period and the two teams were tied at 42 when Phoenix went on a 16-5 run to open up an 11-point lead at 58-47.
The Suns maintained that 11-point margin at halftime, 62-51, then blew the game open late in the third quarter with a 13-4 run that extended their lead to as much as 20 points.
Utah climbed back within 11 late in the game, but this one was over long before that.
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