Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/15/12
PHOENIX -- The last two games have shown the Phoenix Suns what is possible. They just wish it hadn't taken a seven-game losing streak to bring out the improved play. With their longest losing skid in eight years in the rear-view mirror, the Suns backed up Wednesday's win over Memphis with an impressive 99-84 win over the Utah Jazz on Friday behind a season-high 22 points from Jared Dudley. Goran Dragic had 17 points and Marcin Gortat added 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Suns, who held opponents under 90 points in consecutive games. PJ Tucker and Michael Beasley combined for 21 of Phoenix's 38 bench points as the Suns recorded back-to-back victories for just the third time this season and, for the first time, beat teams with a winning record consecutively. Phoenix surprised the Grizzlies 82-80 on Dragic's game-winner, but on Friday, they led for all but a few seconds. "The aura in the locker room ... you can just feel the excitement knowing we are playing well and beating good teams," said Tucker, who added 10 points and plenty of second-half energy to the mix. "It makes (the losing streak) more frustrating, but it takes time to get the rotation down and what they need to do when they get in there." Coach Alvin Gentry switched Dudley to the small forward spot and had Beasley switch to a reserve role at big forward four games ago, and Dudley has responded with 15 points per game and 58 percent shooting from the field. He hit 9 of 12 shots Friday, and added five assists and three steals. "I would have liked to have played better early. It kind of happened last year when I lost a (starting) spot and came back," Dudley said. "I'm a glue guy and I have to fit in with guys. We're playing unselfish and moving the ball and I'm shooting when I'm open. It's simple when it's going well." Al Jefferson led a balanced Utah scoring attack with 14 points and Paul Millsap had 12, but the Jazz led only once -- at 13-12 in the first quarter -- and saw its season-best four-game losing streak snapped as its road woes continue. The Jazz are 4-10 away from EnergySolutions Arena, where they are 9-1. "Give them credit, they played like they wanted to win," said Jefferson, who had 27 points and 14 rebounds in Utah's 94-81 win over the Suns on Nov. 10 in Salt Lake City. On Friday, he struggled and was 6-for-16 from the floor. Phoenix held off a Utah rally in the third quarter thanks to 11 points from Dragic and Gortat. The Suns answered again in the fourth quarter when Utah pulled to within 79-72 on Derrick Favors' jumper with 10:23 left. But the Suns held the Jazz without a basket for the next 6:22 during a 14-2 run that put the game away. "We had opportunities to come back. We cut it to four (65-61 in the third quarter) but we could never get over the hump because they had their confidence going," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They ran hard; cut hard -- it was their style of game, not ours." Known for slow start most of this season, the Suns took control of the game late in the first period. Tied 18-18 with 4:42 left, Phoenix closed the quarter on a 16-4 run, eight of them from Beasley off the bench, to take a 34-22 lead. Beasley had two of Phoenix's five 3-pointers in the first half. Dudley had 13 points in the first half and gave the Suns their biggest lead at 56-36 on a fastbreak layup with 3:34 left. The Suns had a 15-3 edge in fastbreak points at intermission. "It's so much easier when you're playing downhill instead of uphill," Gentry said. "I thought it was our best first quarter by far. We did a great job of moving the basketball. We had 22 baskets in the first half and assists on 16 of those. That tells me we're doing the right thing." Notes: After surrendering 106.3 points and 49 percent shooting to opponents during their seven-game losing streak, the Suns held Memphis and Utah to 82 points and 42.6 percent shooting in back-to-back wins ... Heading into Friday, the Jazz have given Suns center Gortat fits in Salt Lake City. In four road games in Utah since joining the Suns, Gortat averaged just 7.3 points on 41 percent shooting. Gortat's two previous home games were much better, averaging 18 points and 68 percent shooting. ... Utah's Jefferson came into the game with 246 career double-doubles, third among active players in the Western Conference behind Dwight Howard (459) and David Lee (252). ... Corbin and assistant Mike Sanders both played for the Suns and were part of the biggest trades in team history on Feb. 25, 1988 -- heading in different directions. Corbin came to Phoenix with Kevin Johnson, Mark West and a draft choice that became Dan Majerle in exchange for Sanders and Larry Nance, who went to the Cavaliers.
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