One of the biggest questions surrounding the young Utah Jazz team was how it would perform away from EnergySolutions Arena. Friday night gave the Jazz their first road test of the season, and while they gave a good effort, they fell to the Phoenix Suns, 87-84.
For the second consecutive outing, Utah gave solid effort only to succumb to some youth mistakes. As a result, it dropped another dramatic nail-biter. Gordon Hayward connected on a step-back three-pointer with 22.9 second left, only to have that negated by a Eric Bledsoe trey that sealed the victory for Phoenix.
Largely viewed as two of the young teams that may encounter the most struggles this season, the Suns find themselves 2-0 while the Jazz are 0-2.
Future free agents
Thursday’s deadline for contract extensions for the 2010 NBA class came and went for both Utah and Phoenix. While big man Derrick Favors inked a long-term pact with the Jazz, Hayward and Bledsoe’s talks with their respective teams failed to yield extensions on both ends. While both had their struggles Friday, each showed the talent and abilities that may make them very attractive to teams — especially their own — next offseason.
Bledsoe overcame some early foul trouble and very cold shooting to tally 18 points, six assists and five rebounds in just 28 minutes. While his jump shot was errant, he did not hesitate to take and make the game-winner. His play exuded confidence. His all-around game, ball-hawking defense and sheer athleticism were reasons why Phoenix made the move to acquire him.
Hayward came out very aggressively, putting 14 points up in the first half thanks to some nice forays to the hoop and deft perimeter shooting. The second half, though, was a struggle as Hayward seemed less involved offensively. Still, he stepped up in the end and may gain great confidence knowing that he was expected to come through in the clutch and did so. He added 10 rebounds and eight assists, along with some impressive defensive chase-down plays.
Utah had a rough time putting points on the board. Phoenix deserves some of the credit, totaling 10 blocked shots (eight in the first half) and 10 steals. Still, the Jazz were able to get a bevy of good shots, but they were not falling. They made just 31 of 85 field goals — a lowly 36.5 percent. Utah only made five of 17 shots from beyond the arc. And for the second game, the Jazz did not take advantage of their trips to the free-throw line, missing 10 of 27 shots from the charity stripe.
Phoenix was not much better, hitting 31 of 83 from the floor. The Suns' solid effort from the free-throw line made a difference, as they made 19 of 24.
This and that
- Former Utah Jazz legend and assistant coach Jeff Hornacek is looking good at the Phoenix helm. Besides sporting a 2-0 record as a rookie head coach, he has the Suns hustling and fighting. No play was better evidence that the collision between Phoenix players Goran Dragic and P.J. Tucker as they attempted to steal the ball. Dragic was unable to return.
- Suns guard Dionte Christmas was instrumental in Phoenix’s spirited second half. The former Jazz summer league player’s nine points and four rebounds helped the Suns emerge as winners.
- Utah had three players who finished with double-doubles: Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
- The Jazz had 20 turnovers with six individuals having three or more.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops and Utah Jazz 360. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.
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