9:00 PM ET, April 4, 2012
EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
"That's why we call him two-time," backup Sebastian Telfair said about the two-time NBA MVP. "When he's in the game, we believe in him. We believe if the game is close, he can bring us home, and that's exactly what he did tonight."
Nash scored only 13 points in a 107-105 victory over Utah on Wednesday night but hit two shots in the final 14 seconds, and the Suns won their seventh straight meeting against the Jazz.
Phoenix has won three straight and 16 of 23, and jumped ahead of the Jazz in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Suns (28-26) are in ninth place, a half-game ahead of the Jazz (28-27) and a game behind Denver, which lost Wednesday at New Orleans, and idle Houston. Phoenix also owns the tiebreaker with the Jazz.
"To be over .500 right now, we've overachieved," Nash said. "We are gaining confidence and we believe that we can keep winning. The spirit is good. Guys are sticking together and playing hard.
"When we were at 12-19, it could have gone the other way. ... We played hard and persevered, and are being rewarded for fighting hard."
Paul Millsap had another stellar night for Utah, putting the Jazz on his back the way he did Monday when he scored 31 in a come-from-behind win at Portland.
He finished with 25 points and had a chance to force overtime, but his putback came just after the buzzer.
"Where we go is go forward," said Millsap, who scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter after the Jazz fell behind by 10 with 6:43 remaining. "We don't look back. Tomorrow is a new day. We've got another game Friday."
Millsap had some uncharacteristic turnovers but also made a couple of key steals.
He stole the ball from Channing Frye, then hit a jumper to get Utah to 100-98.
After Frye banked in an off-balance 3-pointer, Millsap hit a running jumper.
Then came a huge steal against Nash, who committed a clear path foul with 34 seconds left and the Suns up by 3.
Millsap made just one of two free throws, but Al Jefferson hit a jumper that tied it at 103 with 28 seconds left.
Nash responded with a 17-foot jumper with 14 seconds left.
Jefferson tied it again after Millsap fed him for an easy layup with 9.4 seconds left, only to see Nash get the ball in the lane and hit the late jumper.
"The ball kind of fumbled to me," Nash admitted. "I was able to lean in and just make one. I knew we didn't have a ton of time, but I didn't have to rush."
With only 1.7 seconds left, the Jazz did, and C.J. Miles fired up a 3-pointer from the baseline. Millsap saw it was going to be short, grabbed it, and put it up and in, but it was too late.
He refused to believe the season is over, even though the Jazz have lost five of their past seven after a six-game winning streak.
"It's tough, but we're not out of this thing, that's how we got to look at it," Millsap said. "We're not out of it. It's not our last game. We still got a bunch of games and have got to finish strong."
Utah has 11 games remaining, with lowly Golden State up Friday night before a home-and home series with San Antonio, then a three-game trip starting April 11 in Houston. The Jazz also close out the regular season with four of five games at home, where they are 19-8.
The Suns have a seemingly tougher road. Nine of Phoenix's remaining games are against teams that would be in the playoffs if they started today.
They'll face the Jazz again April 24 in Salt Lake City.
On Wednesday, the Suns' bench made a huge difference.
"This is not a team where you can just come in and get the team into an offense and things run smoothly," said Telfair, a backup who played 16 minutes. "The point guard on this team has to be the guy being aggressive. When we're aggressive, all the guys get open shots."
Redd and Telfair did all the damage during a 14-2 run fourth-quarter run that put Phoenix up 97-87 with 6:43 remaining.
"You expend too much energy trying to get back into the game," Miles said of having to come back from deficits early and late. "We have to be able to play like that from the second we start. I know we keep saying it, but if we don't do it, it's not going to make a difference if we keep saying it."
Miles finished with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting.
"It's tough to lose any game," added Gordon Hayward, who had a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with his 20 points. "It just makes you realize what mistakes you made during the game that cost you. Every little thing cost you."
Letting Nash get the ball late proved the biggest mistake.
Afterward, Telfair could only laugh at all the talk about Nash's back.
"Steve feels better than me, and I'm 11 years younger," he said. "There ain't nothing wrong with his back."
Notes: The Suns made 13 3-pointers, compared to just three by the Jazz, with Nash, Redd and Frye making three apiece. ... Earl Watson started at point guard for the Jazz in place of Devin Harris, who is still hobbled by a sprained left ankle suffered Monday.... Wednesday's was the second straight game Utah has lost after a last-second tip-in was reviewed and then called off. ... Frye finished 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Since 2009-10, he has the most 3-pointers of any NBA player. ... Nash is on pace to lead the league in assists per game for the sixth time in his career. Only John Stockton (nine seasons) has done it more.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||41-91 (.451)||40-79 (.506)|
|3PM-3PA||13-31 (.419)||3-9 (.333)|
|FTM-FTA||12-22 (.545)||22-28 (.786)|
|Fast Break Points||18||20|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (2/0)||20 (0/0)|