Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sonics beat Jazz, end Utah slump

By Associated Press, from Foxsports.com
Rashard Lewis and the Seattle SuperSonics are having a lot of fun this season playing with their up-tempo offense.

Lewis scored 22 points, Ray Allen added 19 and the Seattle SuperSonics picked up the pace in the fourth quarter to end an eight-game losing streak at Utah with a 98-88 victory over the Jazz on Monday night.

"I thought we were playing slow. We were playing at their tempo and we allowed it to become a half-court game," Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. "But we eventually turned it around."

A study in contrasts, the Sonics are usually best when they are able to freelance while the Jazz run a set play on nearly every possession and rely on precise execution. But Utah's offense repeatedly sputtered down the stretch as it shot 6-of-23 in the final period and stretched its streak of sub-.500 shooting games to 11.

Clinging to a 73-72 lead going into the fourth period, the Sonics went on a 14-5 run capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by Lewis and Vladimir Radmanovic.

"We don't make the same mistakes now. Everybody knows their job and they just go out and do it," said Lewis, whose job seemed to be spotting up for 3-pointers and beating the Jazz down the court.

While the Sonics scored from long range, the Jazz forced up shots to beat the clock or gave the ball away. The Jazz had a season-high 25 turnovers which Seattle turned into 23 points.

"Some of the turnovers, we just almost handed them the basketball without any kind of pressure on us," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.

The Sonics went 13-of-14 from the line in the fourth quarter to clinch the win, which came after losing 11 of 12 at Utah. Seattle last beat the Jazz in Utah on Feb. 1, 2000, a 104-96 victory.

"To beat them here at home, mentally it is a challenge," McMillan said. "I thought our guys kept their composure and played through the aggressive play. In the second half, I thought we got stronger."

Luke Ridnour scored 11 points, while Ronald Murray and Danny Fortson each had 10 for Seattle.

Matt Harpring scored 22 points and Carlos Boozer had 16 points for the Jazz. Boozer had 14 rebounds but committed eight turnovers for the Jazz, who lost four of five games on their pre-Christmas road trip and are 6-7 at home this season.

"We just didn't take care of the ball - those are mental errors and they cost you ballgames," said Raja Bell, who had 16 points for Utah.

After the game was tied at 52 at halftime, Boozer's dunk punctuated a 12-1 run that gave Utah a 66-58 lead.

The Sonics came right back and reclaimed the lead by scoring 13 straight points, including Ridnour's 3-pointer that made it 71-66 with three minutes left in the third quarter.

"Whenever we had things going our way, I thought we fell apart," Sloan said. "We couldn't sustain any energy."

The Sonics, who started a stretch of four games in five nights, haven't run out of energy all season when it counted. Seattle is 10-1 in back-to-back games after going 17-27 last season.

"Four games in five nights sounds tough and it is tough on the body, but we take one game at a time," Allen said. "By doing that, we've done some big things this season."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Johnson, Second-Half Burst Propels Suns

from NBA.com
The Phoenix Suns may have gotten off to a slow start in the first quarter, but the Utah Jazz couldn't contain the NBA's best transition game any longer than that.

Joe Johnson sank 5-of-5 3-pointers and scored a season-high 30 points to lead the Suns to a 108-86 victory over the Utah Jazz.

In the first quarter, the Jazz did not look like a team that had played at home a day earlier and traveled to Phoenix.

Led by Matt Harpring's 10 points, Utah jumped out to a 26-19 lead before Phoenix's high-octane offense produced a season-high 41 points while shooting 69 percent (11-of-16) from the field in the second quarter.

"We wore them down a bit," Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They played last night and we kept running them. We had spurts, from everybody."

Starting with a dunk by Shawn Marion, Phoenix went on a 16-5 run over the first three-plus minutes of the second quarter to take a 35-31 lead. Leandro Barbosa, who scored 10 points, hit a 3-pointer to put the Suns ahead for good and Amare Stoudemire capped the spurt with a three-point play.

Stoudemire scored 11 of his 19 points during the second quarter and Nash - who had 11 assists - added nine of his 13 over that stretch, including a baseline jumper with two-tenths of a second left to give the Suns a 60-49 lead at intermission.

Johnson had two 3-pointers and scored 12 points in the third quarter as Phoenix extended its lead to 89-72 after 36 minutes.

"We have a talented ballclub and I think the sky is the limit," Johnson said. "I think the first quarter, they came out with a lot of energy and that caught us off guard but like good teams, we found a will and a way to win."

Marion produced his 16th double-double of the season, posting 16 points and 13 rebounds, including six and three in the second period.

"In the second quarter, it just happened, we had everything going," Marion said. "We were stopping them and creating easy baskets for us. When we do that, we play our best."

Carlos Boozer had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Mehmet Okur added 11 and 11 for Utah, which surrendered a season-worst 60 points in the first half.

"We did some good things in the first quarter, then we stopped doing what we were doing," said Harpring, who scored all of his 15 points in the first half. "We weren't executing, we were doing more 1-on-1 stuff. When we got bad shots, they got rebounds and then they're off to the races."

The Suns outscored the Jazz, 14-10, on the fast break and entered Wednesday's game leading the league with 19.4 fast-break points per game.

Utah point guard Carlos Arroyo was benched in the first half following a vocal argument with coach Jerry Sloan in the third quarter of Tuesday's win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Raul Lopez started in place of Arroyo and dished out eight assists. He was held to just two points before leaving with a strained right abductor.

The Suns have won six straight games, averaging 116 points during that span with an average margin of victory of 15.5 points. Their 19-3 record is the best start to a season since current Suns point guard Steve Nash led the 2002-03 Dallas Mavericks to a 21-3 beginning.

"This team destroys you and destroys your will to win," Sloan said. "They play as efficient as any team I've seen in a long time. They do everything you want a team to do, and they seem to like each other."

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Jazz Update

The Jazz are a little below .500 with a loss to Miami. Now at 8-10 and last place in the North West division. Which statically makes them 7 games behind Seattle, who have a 15-3 record.

During the game Shaq reached a milestone in his career when he surpassed 10,000 rebounds. Got to give him props for that, even though I am not a big fan.

Raja Bell from the Jazz and the coach for Miami Stan Van Gundy had a few words in the first half. What was that about? It was brief as Bell laughed and turned around to end the conversation.

...And the Jazz host the Magic tomorrow and I believe the game starts at 9 pm eastern time.