Excerpts from interviews Monday with Jazz players and coaches about a game Tuesday against Phoenix.
If Utah wins, the Jazz will clinch the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek will be Utah's lead coaching scout for the game.Hornacek on what he's sees when he watches Phoenix guard Steve Nash on tape: He's a difficult guard to guard because he reads all the situations. He's run the pick-and-roll for 20 years now or whatever it is. He's like John Stockton in terms of, no matter how you guard him, he has an adjustment for it. So the biggest thing is just to have effort all game long. He's going to make plays. There are going to be times when we make good defensive stops; there are going to be times when it looks like, what are they doing? There is not one thing you can do against that guy. Because what are you going to do? Are you going to lay back off of him? He's going to shoot it. If you get up on him, he's going to figure out a way to at least make a pass. You can get the ball out of his hands. But then you're really in a 4-on-3 situation, and the other guys are pretty good at moving the ball. Need 48 minutes of Jazz basketball to beat a team like the Suns: Well, yeah. You saw us the last game, the last 6 minutes of the game we were down 10 or 12 [points] and we ended up tying the game. That's the type of effort we're going to need for 48 minutes.Phoenix's bigs rounding out the team: They're playing well together. Since the All-Star game they've really figured it out. They have confidence in each other; they're all willing to pass the ball and make the extra passes. And guys that are coming off the bench are giving them lifts.
Tyrone Corbin on good part about a win-and-in game: You control your own destiny. You're not looking to anybody else to back into it. It's all on us to do what we need to do win the game. ... The job at hand is to win this ballgame take care of our business and then we'll move forward.Suns: It's a team that shoots a lot of three pointers. They spread the floor. Their bigs ... step out and shoot threes so that that spreads you out even more, with Nash having the ball. He's a dynamic passer. That puts a lot of pressure on the guards to stay between him and the basket. They roll [Marcin] Gortat to the bucket a lot for easy layups. So it's a combination of trying to stop the pick-and-roll with Nash, who is one of the best to ever play the game. ... He'll pick you apart.Channing Frye's availability: We're assuming he's play, and he's been one guy who has spread the floor and hit shots on us because of the way we rotate. We hesitate to rotate some. We've got to make sure every guy is on the same page. The rotations on the ball have to be tight and, when we rotate off the ball, they have to be quick and all the way out. We can't afford to stop short because 4s typically won't shoot threes. But these guys shoot them. ... So we're going to have to make sure we defend the 3-point line.Phoenix bigs Robin Lopez and Gortat: They are tough. Gortat has had a great year. Lopez has been in and out. But Gortat has been a guy who has really expanded his game. He does such a good job of getting his body on the guy guarding Nash and giving him just enough space to pull two guys with him and now he's picking [you] apart. He's either hitting 3-point shooters or hitting Gortat under the basket. It's a tough task for us and we have to find a way to do a better job than we've done in the past.Jazz in playoff race: We've had to fight our way back into it, first of all. We've done a good job of that. Now we're here. We've arrived at a game that can close it out for us. It's on our home floor and our fans have been tremendous all year of supporting us and pulling us over the hump. We have to make sure we do our part on the floor tomorrow night.Nash: He's seen it all, man. You are not going to surprise the guy. He is who he is. He's been doing it for so long. ... Whatever you do, he's going to make adjustments. We have to make sure we are on his body, giving him different looks, making him work for everything gets and see how he plays. If he's hitting his shot, we'll need to change some. If he's getting down the lane, we need to change that. But he will be involved in most of [their] plays either making baskets or making the pass to his teammate.Paul Millsap on Suns: My thoughts are we have to win this game. Almost everything is on the line. They are a good basketball team. We kind of know what they are going to do. Not sure if Frye is going to play or not. If he doesn't it will help us a lot. But we have to get in there and do what we can do.Gordon Hayward on game: It's going to be really important to play our best basketball. It's a do-or-die situation. It's like a play-in game. It's very important to us. What has worked when Jazz's defense has played well against Suns: It always helps if you don't let them get into the paint. Because once they do that, it just breaks down. And they have so many shooters, they can just kick out or drop down or whatever. So, obviously, keeping Steve Nash out of the paint is going to be key. Even that, he'll just hit the roll guy in the paint and they'll kick out and make plays. Just trying to force them as far out from the basket, so they can't make plays.Recent changes to Jazz's pick-and-roll defense: Yeah, we're changing up a little on how we want to guard things. We've done it more towards who we're playing instead of 'This is what we always do.' I think it's helped out a little bit, especially when you go up against 4s who can stretch the floor. Teams like that are really difficult to guard, because you've got four guys who can basically shoot 3s and a guy rolling down the middle. They're going to score. They're an NBA team. They run good stuff. It's hard to guard. It's just a matter of making sure they don't go on 10-0 stretches; they don't start getting comfortable and feeling good and knocking down 3s from all over.Devin Harris on containing Nash: When you're playing against a point guard that does two things really well get others involved as well as can score at a high rate; obviously he shoots 50 percent and all that you've just got to pick your poison, one or the other. The best thing you can do is try to make him play defense. Obviously, he's going to do what he does offensively. But we have to attack him from the other end so he can't coast on offense the whole time.Is Nash still one of the top point guards in the NBA: He's probably one of the smartest. He's 38. He's up there in age. But he's still effective in doing things that he does well. … Fourth quarter he's going to take the big shots. He's still doing things quite well. Ideal position for Jazz to be in: It's a good position to be in. Obviously, it's not the position we wanted to be in. But it's the position that we put ourselves in so we have to make the most of it. It comes down to one game. If we win, then we're where we want to be. If not, then we're going to need some help.Been in a situation like this before: No. [Laughs] But it's good. Throughout your career, you go through new challenges everyday. It's something new for me. But as a team, I think we're ready for the challenge.Playing in recent overtime games could help Jazz: We're battle tested. That's the best thing. Going down the stretch, we know we've been there before. We've had good outcomes. We've had shortcomings. But we're battle tested. Coming into the playoffs, that's important. Josh Howard on containing Suns: The most success I ever had as far as stopping them was letting two guys in the pick-and-roll deal with it and not letting other guys beat you. Nash is a great player. But you don't want him to have 28 points and 20 assists. If we can cut down one of the things, I think our chances of winning are a whole lot better. Blake Ahearn on playing against any of the Suns: I played against Shannon Brown. Not in the NBA, though. Sebastian Telfair, I was in camp with him up at Minnesota. … Nash, I've never played against him. But having the opportunity to watch him up close I've seen him at All-Star games and stuff like that. When you think of the Phoenix Suns, the first thing that comes to mind is Steve Nash. I've been called the Steve Nash of the D-League. [Laughs]Brian T. Smith and Steve LuhmTwitter: @tribjazz, @sluhm