Jazz 104 - 106 Suns
  for this game

Stoudemire punishes Jazz as Suns hang on to snap skid

Dec 7, 2008 - 6:53 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- The Phoenix Suns had to sweat it out, but they finally put an end to their four-game losing streak.

Amare Stoudemire buried a short jumper in the lane with 20 seconds remaining and Steve Nash added a pair of free throws one possession later to extend the lead to five as the Suns held off the Utah Jazz, 106-104, on Saturday night.

Phoenix was nursing a one-point lead before Stoudemire - who killed Utah on the offensive glass all night - snagged Matt Barnes' miss and buried the follow. After C.J. Miles misfired on a potential game-tying 3-point attempt on the other end, the Jazz intentionally fouled Nash, who buried both shots to make it a 104-99 game.

"I thought our guys played with a lot of heart, a lot of passion and we had guys step up big," Suns head coach Terry Porter said. "Amare was a beast tonight and was unbelievable. I told him that is the kind of energy we need from him."

Andrei Kirilenko connected from the arc moments later to cut the Jazz's deficit to two, but it was too little, too late. Stoudemire finished with 22 points and 20 rebounds - including 11 on the offensive end - and Leandro Barbosa came off the bench to score 25, hitting all 10 of his free throws.

"(The tempo) was good tonight. We needed a game like this at home. We need to play better at home," Barbosa said. "I got a lot of open looks tonight. Thank you, coach, for keeping me on the court, especially in that situation."

Paul Millsap registered his eighth straight double-double for the Jazz, posting 20 points and 12 boards. Deron Williams manned Utah's offense with 15 points and 15 assists, but came up empty on two late 3-point attempts that could have given the Jazz a chance.

"They just made the plays and we didn't," Williams said. "We didn't hit a lot of shots coming down the stretch and didn't get many stops. We got into the penalty early and just fouled away. We had some open shots, we had good looks but a couple of them were rushed."

It couldn't have been a more evenly played matchup for most of the night. Both teams shot 45 percent from the field, both came up with timely buckets from 3-point range and both were surprisingly spotty from the free-throw line. But ultimately, the Suns got the upper hand thanks to their edge on the boards - particularly Stoudemire - as they outrebounded the Jazz, 54-37.

"I wanted to attack the boards," Stoudemire said. "I was tying to be aggressive tonight. They always (rebound well) against us, but tonight we did a good job on the boards."

The Suns, who came into the game having dropped seven of their last nine meetings with the Jazz, continually pulled ahead only to see Utah storm right back. In the second quarter, Stoudemire's eight-foot jumper gave Phoenix a 45-36 lead, but the Jazz closed the half on a 14-5 run. With about a minute left, Williams delivered a nifty, one-handed pass to Millsap under the basket and the third-year forward finished with a layup.

Williams buried a 20-footer 30 seconds later and Kirilenko finished the half with a dunk to tie things up, 50-50, at the break.

In the last 82 seconds of the third quarter, Utah rookie center Kosta Koufos single-handedly erased a five-point deficit a pair of free throws and a three-point play within 20 seconds.

But Phoenix forward Matt Barnes - who was dropped from the starting lineup Saturday in favor of Grant Hill - opened up the final frame with a 3-pointer to put Phoenix back in front.

"We had moments when we played pretty well and moments were we made too many mistakes," Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan said. "We can't keep making mistakes. There were a couple of times we didn't know we were running."

The Jazz were playing catch-up for the length of the final quarter, twice pulling even but never being able to get over the hump. Miles tied the game twice in the last three minutes of the game, first on a 3-pointer - his fourth of the night - and again moments later from 16 feet. But Boris Diaw's free throw on the next possession put the Suns up for good.

"The second half we were a lot more aggressive," Porter said. "Got to the free-throw line a lot and really worked the boards. We kind of gave them a little bit of their own treatment as far as what they did to us up in their place."

In the teams' previous meeting this season, the Jazz used a furious fourth-quarter run to prevail, 109-97, in Salt Lake City.

The victory was a welcome reprieve for the Suns, who have been up and down throughout the season's first month under Porter's new system. Players have been vocally frustrated with the team's performance, as they had dropped four straight - including three losses by double digits.

Nash struggled from the floor - hitting 4-of-14, including 0-for-6 from the arc - but dished out nine assists. Shaquille O'Neal collected 15 points and 10 boards and went 5-of-6 from the line.

The Jazz are still without All-Star forward Carlos Boozer, who missed his ninth straight game with a strained left quadriceps tendon. He may return by the end of next week. Okur registered 12 points and 13 boards but shot just 4-of-11, while Kirilenko came off the bench to score 17.

"We just waited to late to get started," Millsap said. "They are a good team and they are playing at home so you have to figure a way to close out on the road. We had good looks but just missed them. It has something to do with our maturity. As we get older and play together more we will get batter at that."