Phoenix Suns have hot hand in 120-111 win over Utah Jazz
Published: March 15, 2012 11:56PM
Updated: June 25, 2012 11:36PM
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Phoenix Suns' Marcin Gortat, of Poland, falls on Utah Jazz's Earl Watson in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 14, 2012, in Phoenix.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Phoenix • The Phoenix Suns rolled to a 120-111 victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night in a game that raised one question.

Was the Phoenix offense that good, or was the Utah defense that bad?

The Jazz’s Devin Harris credited the Suns, who pick-and-rolled Utah to death behind the play of point guard Steve Nash.

“They have one of the smartest players ever running the pick-and-roll,” Harris said. “He understands where guys are coming from and how to get guys open.”

Teammate Al Jefferson agreed.

“Man, Steve Nash,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like it’s 5-on-3 out there, the way he penetrates into the lane. He seems to always find somebody wide open. The older he gets, the better he gets.”

Nash finished with 16 assists and the Suns shot 56.4 percent from the field, including 11 of 18 in the fourth quarter.

Said Harris: “… When you’ve got a guy who gets into the lane and creates havoc like he does and you have guys shooting the ball like they did, that’s a recipe for success.”

Channing Frye scored 26 points and Marcin Gortat added 25 as Phoenix beat Utah for the sixth straight time, going back to 2010.

Paul Millsap and Jefferson scored 18 points for the Jazz, who squandered a 13-point lead in the final six minutes of the second quarter.

It was 53-53 at halftime before Phoenix went on a quick a 12-4 run to grab the momentum.

The frustrated Jazz were called for two technicals during the stretch, including one on Harris and one on coach Tyrone Corbin.

“They came out with more energy,” Harris said. “We got a couple of tough calls, they got into a good rhythm and started making shots at a high rate.”

Still, the Jazz had a chance.

It was 91-91 with nine minutes left when Phoenix converted four possessions into 11 points.

“We couldn’t get over the hump,” Corbin said. “We got right there, but …”

The loss sets up a critical game for Utah against Minnesota on Thursday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

With 10 teams bunched within five games of each other for the final four berths in the playoffs, head-to-head matchups become critical.

For the Jazz, 13 of their final 24 games are against teams surrounding them in the standings.

“These are very big games for us,” Corbin said. “It’s not a do-or-die situation but they could be very important going down the stretch. … We have to make sure we take care of business.”

The Jazz and Timberwolves have split the first two games of their season series and don’t meet again, meaning the potentially-critical tiebreaker will be decided Thursday.

Minnesota arrives in Utah without rookie point guard Ricky Rubio, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week.

“You can’t do anything about that,” coach Rick Adelman said. “You have to go out and play with who you have and see what happens. … It was a blow at first, but I think guys realize what we have to do.”

According to Adelman, the Timberwolves can survive the loss of Rubio if players like rookie Derrick Williams elevate their play.

“The key is, you need people who haven’t been playing to step up,” Adelman said. “It’s like D-Will. He hasn’t been playing but we stepped up big-time the last two games. That’s what is going to get you through. That’s what is going to make the adjustment easier.”

luhm@sltrib.com

Highlights

R Channing Frye scores 26 points.

• The Suns shoot 56.4 percent from the field and Steve Nash hands out 16 assists.

• Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap scored 18 points for Utah, which loses for the third time in four games.