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NBA - Jazz eclipse Suns, nail last playoffs berth


PhilBoxing.com




LOS ANGELES -- The Utah Jazz nailed the 8th and final playoffs berth in the Western Conference Tuesday night by beating the Phoenix Suns, 100-88, at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Utah hosted the home game with a 34-30 record, one game better than the visiting 33-31 Phoenix. But the Suns owned the tiebreaker which meant that a Jazz loss would imperil their playoff hopes heading into the final day of the regular season on Thursday.

But thank goodness for center Al Jefferson, the Jazz dispatched the Suns in crunch time to earn an outright trip to the postseason.

Against a dangerous Suns squad that had prolific 2-time MVP Steve Nash at the helm, the Jazz only had a narrow 85-80 lead with still 4:17 to play in the fourth quarter. That's when Jefferson took matters into his own hands, waging a personal campaign to return to the playoffs after a seven-year drought.

The 6-foot-10, 289-pound Jefferson scored eight consecutive points --- a dunk and three mid-range jumpers against 7-foot Suns center Marcian Gortat. When Jefferson's mini rampage was done, the Jazz had built an insormountable 93-80 advantage with 2:17 to go.

Jefferson, a 7-year veteran who had previous stints in Boston in Minnesota, finished with 16 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two shotblocks. Jefferson shot 8-of-18 field goals and 2-of-2 from the free throw line.

Paul Millsap was also huge for the Jazz, scoring 26 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. Point guard Devin Harris had 14 points and three assists while Gordon Hayward added 11.

The Suns had five players scoring in double figures but the team was undone by poor shooting --- 34-of-84 from the field (40.5 percent) and 5-of-23 from three-point range (21.7 percent). The Suns also missed 7-of-23 free throws, way too many for a super close contest that went down the wire.

In quite possibly his last game in a Suns uniform, impending free agent Steve Nash finished with 14 points and 11 assists. Jared Dudley and 12-year veteran Michael Redd led Phoenix with 15 points apiece while Shannon Brown and Hakim Warrick combined for 24. (Nicholai Rhiz Roska)


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Nicholai R. Roska.


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