SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns followed one of their
most disappointing losses of the season with a big road victory to
take them into the summer.
The Suns beat the Utah Jazz 89-84 Wednesday night, ending a
losing season on a positive note.
"It feels good to come up here and get a win, especially the
last game," said Shawn Marion, who had 19 points and seven
rebounds for the Suns. "Last year we had the playoffs and we had a
good year. But this year that didn't happen. But it's nice to win
that last game and get a little closure for this season."
Amare Stoudemire led the Suns with 29 points and nine rebounds
and carried Phoenix on a rally after squandering a 16-point lead in
the second half.
Phoenix was 44-38 last year, but struggled this season to a
29-53 record. That barely avoided tying the 1987-88 team's 28-54
finish for second worst in Suns history. The Suns had lost Tuesday
at home to the Los Angeles Clippers, but when the Clippers lost
their finale to Seattle, Phoenix was assured not finishing at the
bottom of the conference.
Phoenix won at Utah for the first time since November 2001.
"Do you know how much easier it's going to be to fly home
tonight and go to bed with a smile on your face rather than
everybody being frustrated?" said Casey Jacobsen, who scored eight
points and pulled down five rebounds.
For Utah, the post-John Stockton and Karl Malone era got off to
a promising start despite the disappointing finish. This was Utah's
worst record for a full season since going 42-40 in 1985 -- Malone's
rookie year and Stockton's second season.
Utah was widely expected to be one of the worst teams in the
league, but remained in playoff contention until Monday.
"Maybe it was a surprise, but we really wanted to be in the
playoffs. It was a hard moment the last game when we lost and
Denver won," said Lopez, who played in all 82 games after sitting
out last season while recovering from knee surgery. "But I think
we have to feel pretty good about this team. We played hard every
The Jazz were flat early and never quite recovered. Utah shot
just 32-for-80 from the floor and made only 16 of 27 free throws to
close the season by losing three of its last four. Andrei Kirilenko
added 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks for Utah.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan said he apologized to the Jazz for some
scathing comments about their effort at Minnesota on Monday.
"I went a little bit too far in what I said the other day,"
Sloan said. "I think they deserve a lot of credit for the fact
that they did play hard in most cases. We let a few games get away
from us, but we won a few games that we probably shouldn't have."
Phoenix looked more like a team that was playing for something
other than pride, although the Suns did falter slightly at the end
of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth.
Stoudemire opened the third quarter with a layup and a 3-pointer
to start a 12-0 run that put the Suns up 62-47. Utah went scoreless
on its first five possessions and didn't score in the third until
8:43 remained on a layup by Tom Gugliotta.
Phoenix pulled away again and led by as much as 16 before the
Jazz rallied at the end of the third quarter. Lopez helped lead the
comeback with two free throws, a 3-pointer and a long assist to
Kirilenko for a dunk to get the Jazz within five.
Lopez opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer as the shot
clock was about to expire, then Sasha Pavlovic tied it with a
14-footer for Utah. Lopez hit one free throw after a flagrant foul,
then Kirilenko gave Utah a 74-71 lead with a tip-in.
Phoenix regained the lead midway through the quarter and never
let it go. Raja Bell got the Jazz to 80-78, but Stoudemire scored
the next six points as the Suns pulled away. Utah could never get
closer than three the rest of the game.
Notes:@ Jazz owner Larry Miller made a brief speech before the
game, thanking the Jazz fans. ... Lopez's previous career high was
18 points against Milwaukee on Nov. 21. ... Gugliotta was traded to
the Jazz by Phoenix at the deadline in February. ... The Suns
dressed just nine players because of injuries and lost Maciej Lampe
in the first half with an ankle injury.