SALT LAKE CITY – Wednesday night’s home game against the Phoenix Suns (11-45) ended in a 116-88 win for the Jazz (31-24), but the team’s last game before Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline wasn’t as one-sided as the final score showed.
The Jazz trailed just once – briefly in the first quarter – but struggled to put away the last-place team in the Western Conference standings, even without its star player Devin Booker. Utah led by only four points with less than a minute to go in the third, but outscored the Suns by 20 points in the final period to pick up the 28-point victory.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said the difference was that his team was able to “settle down.”
“In the second half we made the extra pass,” he said.
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell scored a team-high 21 points while his teammate Joe Ingles recorded 15 points and 11 assists.
“He’s a very savvy player, especially in the pick-and-roll game,” Utah forward Jae Crowder said of Ingles. “We tried to take advantage of that and let him make plays off of the pick-and-roll. He did a great job tonight taking what the defense gave him.”
Rudy Gobert also notched a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Phoenix’s Josh Jackson scored a game-high 27 points. Derrick Favors and Ricky Rubio, who have been rumored as potential trades, scored 14 and 13 respectively.
The Suns’ only lead came midway through the first quarter when Deandre Ayton scored six-straight points as part of an 8-0 Suns run. Utah called a timeout and responded with back-to-back 3-pointers from Kyle Korver and Crowder to retake the lead.
Utah scored the first 11 points of the second quarter to extend the lead to 17, but Phoenix didn’t give in. The Suns, aided by 10 first-half Jazz turnovers and 12 second-quarter points from Jackson, held the Jazz to a 56-46 halftime lead, which was cut to five points early in the third. With less than a minute remaining in the third, Phoenix closed the gap to four.
Crowder said the biggest challenge during the first three quarters was not overthinking the situation on offense and getting stops on the defensive end.
“(The Suns) struggle a little bit defensively in transition,” he said. “So we just wanted to attack those guys in that area and find the open shot.”
The Jazz were able to score 37 points in the final quarter to secure the win. Mitchell attributed the successful finishing stretch to his team’s intensity and communication.
“The communication picked up a lot in the second half and that propelled us to get out in transition,” he said. “Obviously hitting shots helps, but where we were really doing well was communicating defensively.”
After 10 first-half turnovers, the Jazz gave up the ball just three times in the final two quarters.
“We locked in and honed in,” Mitchell said. “That was really the story of the two halves.”
Ayton noticed Utah’s teamwork.
“Utah just did what they do,” he said. “That is a solid team that plays together, consistently, no matter if they are having ups or downs. We had some runs on them and they still played the same.”
The Jazz will stay in Salt Lake to take on the Spurs Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. Phoenix will play next at Golden State Friday.