Sure, the Utah Jazz manhandled the team with the best record in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns, late Thursday night at EnergySolutions Arena, 108-86. It was the worst loss of the season for the 25-11 Suns.
But with sixty percent of the Suns starting lineup out of action, the final result was hardly surprising.
Phoenix had three of its stars out of the lineup. Two-time league MVP Steve Nash (stomach flu), four-time NBA All-Star Shawn Marion (sore elbow) and seven-time All-Star Grant Hill (appendectomy) all missed the game. That trio has combined to average 49 points, 18.5 rebounds and 17.6 assists per game this season.
It was hardly the Phoenix Suns team TNT had hoped would be on the court for the late-starting, nationally-televised game.
In addition, the Suns were on the second game of a back-to-back. They had to rally to force overtime and then beat the Pacers on Wednesday night in Phoenix. Utah, meanwhile, was well rested after having Wednesday night off.
"The first half we gave it a shot," said Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni, whose team trailed by 10 points at intermission. "We came out the second half and we just had wobbly legs. You could just tell we didn't have the energy."
It was hard to fault the remainder of the short-handed Suns for their effort. Only nine Phoenix players dressed for the game. Their coach certainly wasn't upset.
The effort "was good. It's always good," said D'Antoni. "Last night, having to come back the way we did, took something out of us."
While the loss was understandable considering the circumstances, it continues a disturbing trend for the Suns. Phoenix has been feasting on the bottom-dwellers in the NBA, but has struggled against the best teams in the league. The loss drops the Suns to 3-7 this season against teams in the Western Conference that currently have 20 or more wins.
Nash is expected to be back when the Suns host the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. That's good news for Phoenix, which is just 4-13 in past three years without their Canadian point guard. Marion should also return Saturday. Hill, however, will be out two to three weeks.Amare Stoudemire had 21 points and 13 rebounds in the losing cause for the Suns, but it wasn't near enough. Phoenix entered the game 16-2 this season when Stoudemire scores 20 or more points, but it was a different story without his three fellow All-Star teammates on the floor with him.
E-mail: [email protected]