Frustration builds for Jazz in loss to Suns
It took six quarters for the Jazz to wake up, come alive and breathe life into the 2010-11 season.
But as quickly as Utah's bright heartbeat appeared, it was gone.
An energetic third-quarter rally was not enough to save the Jazz on Thursday night, as Utah fell to the Phoenix Suns 110-94 at Energy Solutions Arena.
"It's a tough loss," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "But we just have to see how tough we are to fight through this thing. Expectations are very high we realize that. And we'll see what happens with us."
Al Jefferson scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Utah (0-2), while Paul Millsap added 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Steve Nash and Hakim Warrick scored 18 points apiece to top the Suns (1-1).
One game removed from a season-opening 22-point blowout defeat to Denver on Wednesday, Utah again sleepwalked through the opening minutes vs. the Suns. A 14-5 deficit soon became a 16-point halftime disadvantage, as Phoenix pounded away from the perimeter and easily glided through a Jazz defense that was often lost in transition.
"As a group, we have to understand what level of intensity we have to have to be successful," said Raja Bell, who was 3 of 12 from the field for seven points. "There are teams that may be able to play with a lesser level of intensity and flip the switch and still be able to get it done. But we as a group have to learn what we need to do intensity wise to be able to compete."
But Utah eventually dug in, fighting back to pull within 72-66 with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left in the third quarter following a tomahawk dunk by Deron Williams.
Second-half turnarounds by Williams and Andrei Kirilenko keyed Utah's rally, as the Jazz played fully energized, inspired ball after opening the season with six quarters of hesitation.
Williams looked like an All-Star, Kirilenko played with total passion, and the smooth, efficient offense that Utah has long been known for finally took shape. Passes flew, shots sailed and bodies were thrown.
"I was glad to see us show some life in the third quarter," Sloan said. "I didn't know if we'd fight back or not."
But the quick-hit progress was momentary. A 12-3 Suns run followed, and the Jazz were again off target during the final period.
"We might have found it for a second," Bell said. "But we surely didn't sustain it."
Utah's frustration peaked with 6:58 left in the fourth quarter, when Williams verbally blasted rookie Gordon Hayward after the forward sank a layup. As Williams walked toward the bench, Hayward was consoled by Jefferson.
Sloan said he was comfortable with Williams' outburst, as long as it was not malicious. Williams who acknowledged that he is pressing and frustrated with the team's early struggles said the spat with Hayward was communication related and has been taken care of.
"It's different than what we're used to. We've got new guys, so it's an adjustment period for everybody," said Williams, who asserted that the Jazz do not know the offense and will lose by 50 to Oklahoma City on Sunday if they continue their ways.
He added: "I'm not used to playing this bad and things being this difficult. We've just got to keep fighting. We'll be all right."
Meanwhile, Utah struggled from the field for the second consecutive game. The Jazz shot just 42.9 percent (36 of 84), while Williams and Jefferson combined to connect on only 11 of their 30 attempts.
"You've got to be able to make some shots," Sloan said. "You can't go all night and not long and not make any outside shots. We had a tough time shooting the ball out on the perimeter."
The Jazz struggled to counter the Suns' fast-paced perimeter-based game throughout the first half. Turkoglu, Nash and Grant Hill all had clear long-range looks at the basket, and eight of Phoenix's first 15 field-goal attempts were from beyond the arc. The Suns finished the half shooting 53.8 percent (7 of 17) behind the 3-point line.
"They did a great job of spreading the floor out," Sloan said. "They executed their stuff very well."
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R IN SHORT • The Jazz drop to 0-2 with a 110-94 home loss to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.
KEY STAT • Deron Williams hits just three of his 12 field-goal attempts.
KEY MOMENT • Five consecutive points by Jason Richardson allow Phoenix to end the first half with a 58-42 lead.