Biggest game of the year – Jazz blow it

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Steve Nash had 11 assists in just three quarters, Amare Stoudemire finished with 20 points and seven rebounds, and the Phoenix Suns easily earned the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference by beating the Utah Jazz 100-86 on Wednesday night.Channing Frye scored 10 of his 15 points in the second quarter and Goran Dragic added 12 points for the Suns, who capped their surge through the West standings by ending Utah’s 10-game home winning streak and ripping away the Jazz’s hopes of opening the playoffs in Utah.The Jazz finish fifth in the West and will open the playoffs at Denver, which claimed the Northwest Division with and No. 4 seed by holding the tiebreaker over Utah.Deron Williams led Utah with 24 points and Mehmet Okur finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds.Carlos Boozer, Utah’s leading scorer and rebounder, was out with a strained muscle in his rib cage and the Jazz struggled inside without him, especially after Okur and Paul Millsap got in foul trouble.Phoenix capitalized inside, but it was the Suns’ outside shooting during a torrid second quarter that blew open the game. Nash gave the Suns a 24-23 lead with a 3-pointer late in the first and Phoenix never trailed again.Phoenix flustered Utah throughout the second quarter and opened the period on a 15-3 run, forcing six turnovers in the period and outscoring Utah 29-17 for a 59-42 halftime lead. Frye scored 10 in the quarter, hitting two of Phoenix’s four 3-pointers, and Dragic added seven points.Utah’s frustration started showing when Williams got tangled up with Leandro Barbosa while the two were headed up court and Williams ended up shoving Barbosa to get him away. Barbosa was called for the foul, but Williams was called for an offensive foul six seconds later and the Jazz continued to unravel as the calls went against them.Utah shot 27 percent (6 for 22) in the second and stayed flat in the third, relying mostly on outside shots as Stoudemire and former Utah center Jarron Collins shut down the lane.The meager runs the Jazz managed were always answered with something more from the Suns, who rested Nash for all of the fourth quarter.Jason Richardson scored 12 and Jared Dudley added 11 points for the Suns, who will will host Portland to start the playoffs.NOTES: Phoenix went 23-6 after the All-Star break. … Boozer missed just his fourth game of the season for Utah. … The Jazz honored late owner Larry H. Miller by retiring the No. 9 – his softball number – and renaming the court at EnergySolutions Arena during a halftime ceremony. … The Jazz were just 1-3 against Denver this season. … Stoudemire scored 12 in the first quarter.

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