Suns hold off late rally, hand Jazz first loss

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The new-look Phoenix Suns didn't play their best and still won. They believe that is a sign of good things to come.

"Actually, I think that's the mark of a good team. We didn't play well and we still found a way to win," said Steve Nash, who had 14 points and 11 assists and sealed a 97-88 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night with six free throws in the final minute.

"Because of all the new players we're not really sure of ourselves at times, but we have a lot of competitors on this team and we'll do what we need to. This win was more grit than anything," Nash said.

Shawn Marion had 20 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Suns. In the fourth quarter, Marion spearheaded a double-teaming defense that frustrated the Jazz and forced turnovers and poor shots.

"We were active on both ends of the floor," Marion said. "Our offense wasn t clicking like we wanted but at the same time, we were playing great defense. We grinded this one out all night."

The Suns, who averaged 110 points last season, are trying to adjust to playing without injured Amare Stoudemire and with 10 newcomers. Phoenix couldn't get its break going and was often forced into the halfcourt game the Jazz prefer.

Nash, who made just 4-of-12 shots, added flatly, "It wasn't pretty out there."

But it was downright ugly for the Jazz, who shot under 40 percent and committed 21 turnovers. The Jazz outrebounded the Suns 55-34 but often allowed dribble drives for layups.

"We gave up too many easy baskets," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "It shows how intelligent they are because they put the ball right where they wanted it to go as it came down the stretch."

Boris Diaw scored 14 points, including two driving baskets after the Jazz had closed within three points late in the game.

"It was a great feeling when you get in the game like that. It s where all the pressure is," Diaw said.

Diaw's shots put the pressure on the Jazz, who wilted down the stretch for their first loss of the season after two wins. Utah converted just 3-of-7 free throws in the fourth quarter.

"It's kind of tough [because in] the fourth quarter we had a chance. But we missed some free throws and didn't execute like we need to," said Andrei Kirilenko, who had 14 points and 14 rebounds but shot just 4-of-15.

Gordan Giricek scored 17 points and Mehmet Okur had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

With mostly reserves on the floor, Phoenix scored the last eight points of the third quarter, including a 25-foot 3-pointer from Eddie House, to take a 73-66 lead.

"Our bench got us over the hump and we closed it out," Marion said.

Marion, who started the second half with back-to-back alley-oop dunks from Nash, continued his scoring tear after scoring 30 points in the Suns' 122-112 win over the Lakers on Wednesday.

The Suns started the game by missing their first seven shots and fell behind by 10 points before closing to 49-44 at halftime.

Game notes
Utah starting center Greg Ostertag left the game in its second minute after spraining his right knee and did not return. The Jazz are already without forward Carlos Boozer, who is nursing a hamstring injury and has not played this season. ... Jazz center Robert Whaley completed his two-game suspension for punching a Lakers player during a preseason game but did not dress. ... Play was delayed for a few moments in the third quarter while a trainer stopped the bleeding from a cut on Marion's forehead.