Usually when a team is more aggressive than you, you’re going to have to do some things really well. For us it was the opposite, we turned the ball over and we made a lot of mistakes offensively. —Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
PHOENIX — You had to think it was only a matter of time for the Utah Jazz playing against the lowly Phoenix Suns Wednesday night at Talking Stick Arena.
The Jazz were playing perhaps the worst team in the NBA, one that had already lost games by 48 and 42 points, respectively, a team that fired their coach after three games and benched a 20-point scorer who said he didn’t want to play for his team anymore. If ever there was a road game for the Jazz to win this season, this one topped the list.
But it didn’t happen.
The Suns beat the Jazz in every conceivable way, outshooting, outrebounding and outhustling them en route to a stunning 97-88 victory that left both teams 2-3 on the season.
“They were the more aggressive team,” said Utah coach Quin Snyder. “They got the loose balls and they attacked. Usually when a team is more aggressive than you, you’re going to have to do some things really well. For us it was the opposite; we turned the ball over and we made a lot of mistakes offensively.”
The Jazz had an awful night handling the ball, finishing with 24 turnovers, led by Ricky Rubio with seven. The Jazz also shot poorly: 41.6 percent from the field overall and 24 percent from 3-point range while being outrebounded 55 to 44. Meanwhile, the bench was abysmal, scoring a grand total of nine points. Not one reserve player made a basket until late in the third quarter.
“We were a little flat,” Snyder said. “We’re a team that has to play with energy and aggressiveness. That’s who we are and we didn’t have that tonight. It showed on a lot of levels and our bench didn’t have it tonight.”
Utah was coming off an 18-point loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles the night before, while the Suns had the night off after securing their first win Monday against Sacramento.
The Jazz fell behind early to an inspired Suns team, playing their second game under interim coach Jay Triano, who replaced former Jazz player Earl Watson, who was fired at the start of the week.
It was 10-2 before the Jazz looked up and by the end of the first quarter, it was 23-13. Utah shot just 30 percent in the first quarter with seven turnovers. They also played poor defense, allowing guys like Tyler Ulis, Alex Len and 35-year-old Tyson Chandler to score at will.
The Jazz cut the lead to seven at halftime, but started the third quarter slowly and soon found themselves trailing by 18 points.
In the fourth quarter the Jazz found some life and pulled within eight points with three minutes left and had a chance to cut the lead even further. but Gobert missed a shot inside, Favors mis-fired on a 3-pointer and Hood missed a wide-open 3-pointer. When Booker sank a 3-pointer at the 1:27 mark, that clinched it for the Suns.
Gobert had his fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds and also blocked a season-high five shots
“The energy wasn’t really there,” said Gobert. “They came out more aggressive and more physical and we weren’t ready to play. They pushed us around and we weren’t strong enough.”
Rodney Hood returned after missing two games with a left calf strain and was one of the few bright spots for the Jazz, finishing with 22 points, but he only scored seven in the second half when his shot wouldn’t fall.
He said afterward that he still felt the pain, but hoped having two games off before the next game that he would be healthier.
“We lacked energy,” Hood said, echoing Gobert. “We’ve got to understand that when we turn the ball over it just makes it harder for us. It was a learning experience for us and we need to get better from it.”
The Suns were playing without Eric Bledsoe, the one who said he didn’t want to “be here” anymore and is likely to be traded, but they didn’t really miss him.
Rookie Mike James played with energy and tough defense in his place, while Ulis played well off the bench with 13 points. T.J. Warren led the way with 27 points. Devin Booker scored 17 and Len added 13 off the bench.
“I was pleased with the way we defended,” said Triano. “We tried to put pressure on the ball and I think we had a better idea of where we’re going to find help and where are our guys are going to be.”
The Jazz will try to regroup with four straight home games beginning Saturday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.