Danny Ainge was pretty sure he'd brought his team with him to the Delta Center Tuesday. The guys he was coaching wore Phoenix Suns uniforms and even jumped out to an early four-point lead on the Utah Jazz.
It didn't take long, however, for the disappearing act to take control. A 19-6 run over the next six minutes gave Utah the lead for good as the Jazz went on to an easy 92-73 victory over the Suns."They beat us in every aspect of the game. I didn't recognize our team out there. I have no idea what team that was," Ainge said. "I think we lacked leadership on the court, and we didn't make any shots. We were scattered all over the place."
Phoenix shot 37 percent in posting its lowest point total of the season.
The Suns, who are hoping to secure home-court advantage for at least one playoff series (attainable if they can move up from the fifth to fourth seed in the Western Conference), were outrebounded 50-31 and once found themselves be-hind by as many as 29 points.
"It was a discouraging game," Ainge said. "We just have to learn from it and go from there."
Phoenix, however, is running out of time. The educational process has taken its toll. Since a 108-97 loss in the Delta Center on Feb. 26, the Suns are just 2-5 away from America West Arena. The victories came at Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers, while the setbacks occured at Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio and Utah. All five loom as possible postseason opponents.
"If (tonight) was our playoff team," Ainge said. "Then we're in trouble."
Despite having lost seven of their past eight games against teams with winning records, the Suns are just two games behind the Spurs for the West's fourth seed with 13 left to play.
"We're still in position where we can get home-court advantage in the first round," Suns captain Danny Manning said. "That's what we're striving for."
FRIENDLY WAGER: As the teams exchanged handshakes prior to tipoff, Suns guard Rex Chapman asked Jazz forward Adam Keefe if he was interested in a little bet. The Kentucky alum wanted Utah's Stanford product to wager on Saturday's Final Four meeting between their alma maters. Keefe politely declined.
"I'm not a big betting type of guy," he said. "Besides it would be a sure win for Stanford, so it wouldn't be fair."
NOT BLUE ABOUT THE UTES: Former BYU coach and current Suns assistant Roger Reid isn't surprised the University of Utah defeated Arizona in the NCAA tournament. He told folks in Phoenix they'd win.
"I think it's fantastic. It's great for the state of Utah, and it's great for the WAC," Reid said. "You just have to be proud of what they've done. It's a great, great thing."
Reid, who is impressed with the Runnin' Utes' execution, called Rick Majerus a great basketball coach. "That's why (BYU) wins over Utah really meant something," he said.