Jazz start slow, drop second straight by double digits

SALT LAKE CITY -- Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry predicted his team would be a work in progress this season.

While the Suns don't have Amare Stoudemire anymore, they still have Steve Nash. And at 36, the All-Star guard shows no signs of slowing down.

He scored 18 points and had five assists to lift the Suns to a 110-94 victory over the Utah Jazz on Thursday night.

"It was undoubtedly an important game for us tonight," Nash said. "We learned our lesson and held our composure for longer stretches, and in particular, we held it together at the end of the game."

It wasn't just Nash. Reserve Hakim Warrick added 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Jason Richardson chipped in 16 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

"Hakim was great on the glass and hustled," Nash said. "He finished and got to the line. He did a lot of little things that matter. But he also scored, and when he can do that, it makes us a better team."

The Suns (1-1) led by as many as 18 points against a Jazz team that played with more intensity than during a 22-point season-opening loss at Denver on Wednesday night. But in the end the Jazz still had trouble finding the basket.

The Jazz shot just 33.3 percent in the first quarter and 42.9 percent for the game. Utah was just 3-for-13 on 3-pointers while Phoenix made 10 of 26 from behind the arc.

"They're good at pushing the ball up the floor, and those things were difficult for us to handle," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "That's the way their team is designed. If you don't take good shots against them, and you end up taking jump shots out on the perimeter and you don't make them, then they're off and running."

Al Jefferson, who the Jazz hope can fill the shoes of Carlos Boozer, scored 20 points to lead Utah (0-2). Paul Millsap added 19 points and 13 rebounds. Andrei Kirilenko also had 19 points.

"Things are not going our way. We've got to continue to stay with it. I mean we've got to continue to get better," Millsap said. "We got punched in the mouth twice in our first two games."

Raja Bell struggled in a game against his former team, scoring just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Nash scored 10 of his points in the first half to help the Suns build a 58-42 advantage at the break.

The Jazz would pull within six points after Deron Williams' dunk off a feed from Kirilenko. But the Suns had an answer in Nash.

He ended a 9-0 Utah run in the third quarter with a driving layup followed by a 3-pointer. Later in the quarter Channing Frye fed Nash for another 3, giving the Suns a 78-67 lead.

"We played well, really extremely well defensively in the first half," Gentry said. "We kept Deron out of the paint. He always seems to hurt us with his dribble penetration."

Phoenix led 84-72 after three quarters and extended its advantage in the fourth.

After being outrebounded by 18 at Portland in a season-opening loss, Phoenix held its own on the boards against the bigger Jazz.

"We're an undersized team and we're going to have trouble rebounding against big, strong guys like Al [Jefferson] and [Paul] Millsap," Gentry said. "But we fought hard and our perimeter guys did a good job.

"The big thing for me is that when things went a little bad for us and they made a little comeback, we were able to withstand that."

That pleased Nash.

"We haven't got the chemistry yet and there are no shortcuts," Nash said. "It just takes time. You got to find the understanding and be unselfish and conscious of the other players on the team. But there is no easy formula."

Game notes
The Suns scored the first basket of the game and never trailed. ... Utah lost its last home game in the 2009-10 season to Phoenix and now has dropped three in a row in the series. ... Williams had a technical foul and a delay-of-game that resulted in a technical free throw for Nash.