As the Utah Jazz watch their record creep closer to .500 (in a bad way), it seems like a once-promising season is headed for the tubes. In their latest game, the Jazz fell victim to none other than Channing Frye and the Phoenix Suns. Channing Frye? Yes, Channing Frye, who had 31 points against the Jazz, including 19 points in the first quarter. Frye racked up most of his points from the “Land of Plenty” as he hit 6 three-pointers in the contest (5 in the first quarter). When you’re giving up 31 points to Channing Frye you know something is just not right with your team. (Jerry Sloan anyone?)
In addition to Frye, the Suns got a good performance out of their ageless point guard Steve Nash who scored 20 points and dished out 14 assists, while his counterpart Deron Williams was held to a paltry 2-11 from the field in large part due to the defensive play of Grant Hill. On a milestone-worthy side note, Nash actually passed Gary Payton for 7th all-time on the career assists list. Thinking about Nash in terms of the all-time great point guards, it really puts things into perspective when you realize that he’s right there with some of the best. It seems like he hasn’t been around for as long as these other greats were, but in reality he has been.
Before I get too removed from my original mention of Grant Hill, I want to get back to Grant Hill and his ability to shut down Deron Williams offensively. Grant Hill is 38 years old, and he is still out there giving it his all and producing like a key player. To be able to own Deron Williams on defense is an incredible feat, and I don’t think it can be mentioned enough. Deron Williams is one of the toughest guys in the league to guard because he can out-big smaller players and he can out-quick bigger players. Grant Hill, though, was able to hold his own last night, and he stuck the All-Star point guard all night long. After the game, Alvin Gentry had this to say about Hill:
“I can’t say enough about Grant. I don’t think he gets the credit. If anyone should be on the all-defensive team, it should be him.”
Since this is starting to feel like a Suns article, let’s show some love to Al Jefferson, who was the game’s leading scorer with 32 points. If anyone was going to get the Jazz the win on the offensive side of the ball last night it was going to be Al Jefferson who shot 14-23 from the field. In other words, the offensive gameplan for the Utah Jazz was: “Go to Big Al.” With the Suns’ notorious weak interior defense, the Jazz knew that the inside was the place to exploit if they wanted to be successful. Unfortunately for the Jazz, it was the three-point shooting of Phoenix that was ultimately the difference. The positive thing that the Jazz can pull out of this is that Jefferson can be a player that the Jazz can lean on offensively. When they got him to replace Boozer, many feared that the offensive production from the center/forward position would go down. Last night’s performance was a good indicator that the Jazz need not worry about that. They do, though, need to worry about the way they’ve been playing lately as a whole. If they don’t figure out something soon, it is going to be too late, and it is going to be another wasted season for the Utah Jazz.