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Utah Jazz: Suns spoil home-opening fun

Published: Friday, Oct. 29 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of balloons released from the EnergySolutions Arena rafters prior to the Utah Jazz's 2010-11 home-opener weren't the only things to get deflated late Thursday.

On a night Jazz fans popped floating balloons as part of pregame festivities, the Phoenix Suns did some popping and deflating of their own in a 110-94 win.

The sold-out home crowd's hopes?

Pop!

The bubble of excitement that was built up in Utah during a perfect preseason and some exciting offseason acquisitions?

Burst!

A chance to get the first win of the season?

Left on the floor like shriveled-up balloons.

"There's no chemistry out there, man. No chemistry at all," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said. "But, I mean, it's stuff we can't rush. It's not gonna happen overnight. We know that."

That's what the Jazz — now 0-2 with a tough match-up at Oklahoma City next on the schedule Sunday — are hoping at least.

"It's always ups and downs," said Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko. "We've been at the top in the preseason and everybody feels so excited. Right now everybody a little bit down. But that's a good way to rise."

Just like the night before in Denver, the Jazz came out flat and fell behind by double digits in the first half.

Unlike in Denver, where they trailed by 20 at half en route to a 110-88 loss, Utah showed enough comeback fight to make this one somewhat competitive. After falling behind by as many as 18 in the opening half, the Jazz pulled within six in the third quarter.

"I was glad to see us show some life in the third quarter," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "Because I didn't know if we'd fight back or not."

When they did, it seemed as if the ESA roof would be blasted into orbit. That was especially the case when a cutting Deron Williams took a pass from Andrei Kirilenko and exploded up for a strong one-handed jam.

The crowd went bonkers.

Williams celebrated by smacking at the ball.

And it looked like the comeback was on — for a quick moment, at least.

Williams was whistled for a delay-of-game technical foul for hitting the ball into the front row, and Steve Nash hit the free throw to make it 73-66.

The spark by D-Will's dunk was all but doused and Phoenix finished the third on a surge to take a 12-point lead into the final quarter.

"I thought we fought back, but our energy level wasn't good enough to keep us going," Sloan said. "You have to give them credit, though. They defended us well. They did a great job spreading the floor out. They executed their stuff very well."

Six Suns hit double digits, led by 18 points apiece from Steve Nash and backup big man Hakim Warrick, as they bounced back from their season-opening loss at Portland on Tuesday.

Sloan was upset how Phoenix outscored the Jazz in three of the four quarters, and how the Suns raced to 20 fast-break points.

Utah, meanwhile, struggled to find the bottom of the net, hitting just 42.9 percent of its field goals. The Jazz's starting guard line of Williams and ex-Phoenix player Raja Bell, making his Utah re-debut, really had a rough night as they combined to hit just 6 of 24 shots.

Sloan was as complimentary of Phoenix as he was disappointed in his own team's showing.

"I thought they came out again and defended us very well," Sloan said. "They pushed the ball up the floor, they got some fast breaks and got off to a great start."

This was the second straight night that Utah fell behind by nine points early on (11-2 against Phoenix) and gave up 110 points. Making matters worse, the Jazz have yet to hold a lead in the regular season after winning all eight preseason games, including two wins over the Suns.

"It was a tough loss, but we just have to see how tough we are to try to work through this thing," Sloan said. "Expectations were very high, we realize that, and we'll see what happens with us."

The loss was not without some positives.

Millsap had another strong showing, finishing with 19 points and a team-high 13 rebounds. Kirilenko bounced back from a miserable opener, also scoring 19 points.

And Al Jefferson had a much better home debut than his first game with the Jazz on Wednesday. Coming off a six point performance, Big Al led the Jazz with 20 points and nine boards.

NOTES: Utah had won 14 of 17 previous home-openers but fell to 21-16 all-time in the first game in its arena. ... The Jazz were 5-0 on TNT in regular season and 4-0 at home, including the famous Sundiata Gaines' game-winner against Cleveland. ... A night after scoring 11 points in his first NBA game, Jeremy Evans did not play because of a coach's decision. Rookie Gordon Hayward had a decent first home showing, with six points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.

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