The Utah Jazz can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight, but are facing a Phoenix Suns team they haven't defeated in over two years.
Utah sits a game ahead of Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference with two to play, and a victory versus the Suns in the second test of a three-game homestand would send the Jazz to the postseason for the fifth time in six years. Utah missed the playoffs a year ago.
The Jazz are 0-2 against the Suns this season and have lost the previous seven meetings between the teams, last winning in this series on March 4, 2010. Utah has dropped the last four matchups as the host and hasn't prevailed in this series in Salt Lake City since Jan. 25, 2010.
A well-rested Jazz squad is coming off Saturday's 117-107 overtime triumph versus Orlando in the opener of the homestand, as Al Jefferson had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the way. Devin Harris added 21 points and seven assists, while Paul Millsap finished with 18 points and nine rebounds for the Jazz, who have won three in a row, five of seven and outscored the Magic by a 16-6 margin in OT.
"Nothing is easy," Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin said. "This bunch of guys... I can't say enough about how they really gutted it out again tonight."
Corbin's team will close out the regular season versus Portland on Thursday and is 23-8 as the host. A loss tonight for the Jazz would swing the advantage to the Suns, who would need to win out and hope for a Trail Blazers win in order to punch a ticket to the playoffs.
Phoenix has alternated wins and losses over its last eight tries and suffered a crucial 118-107 loss versus Denver on Saturday in the finale of a four-game homestand (2-2).
Shannon Brown came out of nowhere to hit a career-high six three-pointers en route to a team-best 28 points for the Suns. Marcin Gortat ended with 18 points and 11 rebounds, Sebastian Telfair netted 15 points and Steve Nash chipped in eight points and 13 assists in defeat.
"It's disappointing to lose tonight, but we're still in a great position," Nash said. "We've given ourselves a chance to control our own destiny still, so we've got to regroup and have a great performance in Salt Lake (City)."
The Suns are trying to avoid missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since a three-year hiatus from 1986-88. They are 14-18 away from the desert this season and will close out the regular season versus top- seeded San Antonio at home on Wednesday.
Phoenix forward/center Channing Frye is listed as questionable for tonight with an injured right shoulder suffered against Denver. He has averages of 10.5 points and 5.9 rebounds this season.