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NBA Game of the Day

   by ASA - 03/18/2010

Utah Jazz vs. Phoenix Suns

9:00 PM EST

The Skinny

Who's hotter? The Suns have won 16 of their past 21 while the Jazz have won 20 of their past 26. The Jazz are currently in 4th place in the Western Conference playoff standings but have just a 2 game lead on, you guessed it, Phoenix (6th place).

Utah has won six of the last eight meetings overall.

Playoff Push

With only 14 games until the playoffs, the Suns wish they could bottle what they have going for the postseason. Amare Stoudemire, Jason Richardson and Grant Hill are playing their best basketball of the season. Nash is the healthiest he’s been since January. Center Robin Lopez changed the team's dynamic, bringing a balance to the front-line to help the trouble spots: defense and rebounding.

Lopez and sixth man Channing Frye have averaged 21.5 points and 10.0 rebounds combined with Lopez in the starting line-up. Guard Leandro Barbosa made his return Tuesday after missing 23 games with a wrist injury. He had 7 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes. He adds even more depth and firepower to the NBA’s #1 offense.

"We want to take this momentum into the playoffs," Stoudemire said. "We want to play well all the way into the playoffs and also through the playoffs.”

The Suns are in sixth place in the West with a key game coming at home Friday against Utah. Richardson said the playoffs essentially already have begun.

"Guys aren't even worried about anything but going out there and winning games," Richardson said. "Especially right now, nobody has personal goals. Everybody's so focused on positioning ourselves for a better playoff spot and trying to get home-court advantage that it stepped everybody's game up. We're that team you saw when we went 14-3 at the beginning of the season.

The Suns annihilated Minnesota 152-114 at US Airways Center in their latest game on Tuesday. Phoenix scored at least 35 points in each quarter for the first time since 1972. The Suns shot 56 percent, put eight scorers in double figures, hit 27 of 29 free throws and made 15 of 31 3-point shots to set a Minnesota franchise opponent record for scoring.

Utah Jazz

Point guard Deron Williams came down awkwardly on his ankle in the first quarter of Wednesday night’s match-up with the T-Wolves. Williams wasn't the only Jazz player to be injured Wednesday night, either. Starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko left the game two minutes into the third quarter after re-injuring his left calf. He was wearing a walking boot on his left foot and lower leg as he left the arena Wednesday night.

"It's frustrating when it comes back, the same injury," Kirilenko said, who had missed the previous two games.

Also, Utah's starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews suffered a mild sprain to his left knee. All three players are listed as day-to-day and will be re-evaluated prior to the Jazz's next game on Friday night in Phoenix against the Suns.

We're just trying to get healthy," said Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer. "At this point of the season, everybody is banged up."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan agrees. "Every time you look around, somebody else is hurt," said Sloan. "We've cut our practices back to almost nothing, hoping not to tax guys too much and (so they'll be able to) come out and be ready to play. It's always a fine line."

The injuries could not have come at a worse time for Utah. The Jazz are in the midst of an unrelenting stretch in which they will play 17 games in March.

"Have you seen the rest of this month?" Williams asked. "It makes me sad. [Games] Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. Monday, Wednesday. And I ain't even looked at April.” Williams added later, “It's tough, especially when we've got a lot of guys banged up, myself included. You need the rest. When we went on that win streak, the games were more spread out, we were able to recover. It just seems like we haven't had a chance to just recover.

Despite the injuries, Utah is playing great basketball right now. They’ve won seven of their last 10 games and trail the Nuggets by just two games in the Northwest Standings. If they want to hold on to the 4th spot in the Western Conference playoff standings, they’ll have to continue to get wins over other playoff teams, starting with Phoenix on Friday night.

Head to Head

The most recent meeting was on March 4th in Phoenix. Phoenix had a lead almost the entire game (8 point lead at halftime, 11 point lead after 3rd quarter). Utah exploded for 41 points in the fourth quarter and won the game 116 to 108.

Phoenix shot 57.5% from the floor, but had 19 turnovers and allowed 19 offensive rebounds to the Jazz.

That was the Jazz’ 2nd straight win over the Suns this season after a 124-115 win back in January. Again, Phoenix held a lead going into the 4th quarter but was outscored 33-19 in the final period.

Utah is 7-2 ATS in the last 9 meetings with Phoenix and 8-1 ATS in the last 9 meetings @Phoenix. The underdog is17-8 ATS in the last 25 meetings and the road team is 12-5 ATS in the last 17 meetings.

Key Statistical Information – Last Five Games

PPG

Utah: +8.0 PPG

Phoenix: +9.2 PPG

FG%

Utah: +6.4%

Phoenix: +6.5%

Rebounding

Utah: +3.4 RPG

Phoenix: +3.8 RPG

Trends

Utah is 36-15-3 ATS in their last 54 games overall and 13-4-1 ATS in their last 18 road games.

Phoenix is 16-5 ATS in their last 21 games overall and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 home games.



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