Well, I'll give optimism a fair shot. There were definitely improvements from the Denver game to the Suns game. It wasn't as big of a blowout, for example. And Deron and Jefferson finally seemed to wake up late. And other minute things. Like the Nuggets though, the Suns rolled From opening tip to final buzzer, they had the lead (the Jazz have yet to lead this season). The Suns started early (jumping ahead 12-3) and went from there. Whenever the Jazz cut the lead to around 9 (give or take a couple), the Suns answered with a couple of treys and by draining jumpers. The Jazz, in true Jazz fashion, then promptly answered by putting up, and bricking, jumper after jumper. (Or, even better... airballing jumpers.)
Plus side... there weren't as many FTs this time around. That said, the Jazz were cold from downtown (3-13) while the Suns were feeling it (10-26). Fesenko only played 6 minutes, Evans didn't play (for some unknown reason), and the team looked pretty bad. That said... the booing was probably a bit much. Even though the team looked lethargic (at best), its only 2 games, and half of the team wasn't here last year. (To play devil's advocate... they could still look like they at least cared a little bit).
- Gordon Hayward: Sure, he got chewed out by Deron late in the game about not cutting in when he should have (and promptly received a pretty emphatic pass from Deron). But save for that, he was pretty much the life for the Jazz. Nothing too impressive offensively (3-6 shooting, 6 points) and a miserable +/- of -17, but he added 6 boards and 3 blocks (3 blocks!!!) and showed hustle and life even as the rest of the team seemed to play like crap.
- Paul Millsap: Again, an offensive presence. He went 9-13 for 19 points, and threw in 13 boards (6 offensive) and 2 blocks for good measure. He did have 5 fouls, which kinda sucks, but I guess we've come to expect that from him. And, as always, he was there and hustling whenever he was on the court.
- Deron & AK's dunks: Reaching? Why yes, I am. Tells you about the game, no? At one point in the 2nd half, the Jazz managed to (in close succession) get impressive dunks from Deron (pass from AK) and AK (pass from Deron) to try and wake themselves up. Of course, the Deron dunk was followed by an iffy "technical foul" call, and while I don't remember what happened soon after, I'm guessing it was another Phoenix run catalyzed by treys, Hakim Warrick and Grant Hill.
- Raja Bell: 7 points. 4 boards. 4 assists. Not bad, right? Then you look at the other numbers. 5 turnovers. 3-12 shooting; 1-5 from downtown. He was 2-7 in the 2nd half (0-3 from downtown) and, quite honestly, him jacking up jumpers was just infuriating. They didn't look good from release, and seemed rushed at times. And they were too early into the shot-clock sometimes. Which just has to stop (team-wide, not just him).
- CJ Miles: 1-4 shooting, 2 points. But with that... he did little else. At one stretch there in the 3rd... CJ caught the ball on the wing for a wide open trey. He airballed it. He drove in and missed a lay-up (blocked). And he drove in weekly and had a dunk/lay-up attempt blocked as well. This was right after a Jazz run had cut the lead to 6, and was in the midst of a 12-3 Suns run to end the 3rd. Like everyone else, he seems to be pressing too much. The Jazz should start CJ and bring Bell off the bench.
- Deron Williams: Yes, he had 13 and 6. But he went 3-12 from the field (0-5 in the first half before finally waking up), got frustrated in-game at the one guy who actually seemed to be trying, and really wasn't much of a leader (sorry, I don't buy into the "yelling at a rookie makes you a leader" argument). He's been pressing, and the Jazz are suffering. No idea what the problem is; hopefully they get it fixed soon.
- Honorable mention: The end of the first half: Yeah, I guess the end of the half can't be a "down," but seriously... what in the heck was that? The Jazz had it down to 32-30 in favor of the Suns. Then the Suns went on a 21-6 run and then, following a 6-0 run by the Jazz, the Suns went on another 5-0 run in quick manner to end the half. There was a trey, and then off of an Al Jefferson airball, Nash found a streaking J-Rich for a fast-break dunk with 0.2 seconds left. (Sorry if the events are a bit off... I've tried to erase memories of the game.) And just like that, the Jazz finished the first half down 58-42. That brought out the boo-birds from the fans (whether they should've or not... I'll avoid that issue), who were obviously put off by the seeming lack of effort. (Oh, and Al Jefferson went 2-9 in the 2nd quarter, including that late airball. Just plain ugly.)
What's next? An off day (definitely good), followed by a road game against the Thunder (definitely not good). As Deron stated after today's game... if the Jazz give a similar effort in Oklahoma City, they'll lose by 50. I guess anything better than that counts as a baby step forward, right? The Thunder are in Detroit tomorrow night before heading back home; the Jazz will have a day off to prepare and work on things. And by things, I mean "everything".
(Random stats from halves and quarters and about runs come from PopcornMachine)