PHOENIX — It’s been a long, long time since Jeff Hornacek’s team has lost to the Utah Jazz.
It hasn’t been nearly as long — even if November did seem to drag on for an eternity for Jazz fans — but Utah’s last win on the road was quite some time ago, too.
Both of those seemingly unlikely events took place at US Airways Center on Saturday night.
The Jazz bounced back from Friday’s home loss to Phoenix to beat the Suns 112-104, becoming the last NBA team to pick up a road victory.
“I don’t care what floor it was on,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We just needed a win bad.”
Rookie Trey Burke hit a huge 3-pointer with just over a minute to play and scored a team-high 20 points to help the Jazz avenge their 112-101 setback at EnergySolutions Arena to the Suns the previous night.
“Just to get a road win tonight,” Burke said, “is definitely a confidence booster going into the game against Houston on Monday.”
The Jazz’s starting point guard contributed four treys, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and oodles of moxie as he continues to look more comfortable and confident in the NBA. This was his sixth game back from his month-and-a-half absence with a broken finger.
“He’s continuing to learn. It’s a tough situation for him. It’s a lot being thrown at him in a short amount of time,” Corbin said. “He missed a lot of training camp and the early part of the season, but he’s growing every night out there and we’re going to continue to help him grow.”
Growth for this 3-15 team seemed to happen overnight.
Burke credited the Jazz for bringing an improved “level of intensity” to Arizona after the blowout loss in Utah the night before when the home team trailed by as many as 20 points.
“I think we played hard yesterday, but they played harder than we did,” Burke said. “We watched film this morning and had a team meeting. We know that they’re a really good transition team, so we tried to get back early on so they could see Jazz jerseys.”
That improved defensive intensity worked, even if Phoenix ended up scoring 104 points. The Suns shot 47.4 percent from the field Saturday after shredding the ESA nets Friday at a 54.7 percent clip.
Utah’s offense, led by Burke, also improved as seven players totaled at least 12 points in Utah's highest-scoring game of the season. The Jazz had only surpassed the century mark in two contests, including their previous high in a 111-105 win over New Orleans.
“We said it from the start of the game, ‘You can’t give them life,’” Suns coach Hornacek said. “You come back from winning (Friday) night and I think they thought they were good. Our guys thought they could just show up (Saturday) and win the game, and in this game it doesn’t happen that way. But they don’t want to listen to it. Coaches are telling them they have to be ready and that’s what happens.”
That was one playing-like-they-were-wearing-tuxedos reference short of being a Jerry Sloan quote.
Utah had already lost once in the Valley of the Sun this season, falling 87-84 on Nov. 1. That was the first of a long string of consecutive setbacks away from home, a rough stretch that included blowout defeats in Brooklyn, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Oakland, New Orleans, Dallas and Oklahoma City.
The Jazz hadn’t won outside of Utah, going back to a 96-80 victory in the second-to-last game of the 2012-13 season in Minnesota.
And the last time Hornacek lost to the Jazz? You’ll have to go way back to Feb. 21, 1994, when the shooting guard’s Philadelphia 76ers fell in Utah 119-92 just before he was traded to the Jazz. Hornacek then played for Utah through 2000 and helped coach the team in various capacities between 2007-13 before being hired as Phoenix’s head coach this offseason.
Corbin, who called Friday’s postgame chat in the coaches office in Utah with the rookie bench boss “bittersweet,” was more excited that his team won a game than he was to finally beat his old teammate and assistant after suffering through two losses to the Suns this season.
“It feels good, especially after last night traveling over here. I thought we made some great adjustments,” Corbin said. “The guys on the floor communicated a lot better; our defensive energy was a lot better tonight, so we were able to get a win here.”
The Suns tied the game at 86-86 after a couple of consecutive Gerald Green 3-pointers, but Alec Burks responded with a bucket and Richard Jefferson hit a deep shot. That quick spurt gave Utah a five-point lead, and Phoenix never got closer than four down the stretch.
Burke’s 3-pointer on a pick-and-roll play with Derrick Favors with 73 seconds remaining gave the Jazz an eight-point cushion to pull off their first road win of the season.
Burke wanted to drive for a shot in the paint, but the defense collapsed and the scrambling Suns left him open up top.
Like he did so many times while leading Michigan to the national championship game, the 2013 NCAA player of the year calmly swished the big shot.
“I wasn’t trying to settle for the 3,” he said. “(The Suns) got mixed up on the screen and I was at the 3-point line by myself and I had the confidence to shoot it.”
The Jazz now have the confidence of winning two of three games as they return home Monday for that game against the Rockets.
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