SALT LAKE CITY — For a while Wednesday night, it was a tossup between which was harder to look at — the disjointed basketball game between the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns or the somewhat grotesque visual of Enes Kanter's dislocated left shoulder protruding from the wrong spot of his upper body.
"Dude, it looked gross," Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward said. "I have never seen something like that before."
That was a reference to Kanter's shoulder, by the way, and not the Jazz's occasional ho-hum effort against a horrible Phoenix team.
By the time Hayward replayed the difficult-to-digest injury of his Turkish teammate in his locker, the Jazz had covered up their blemishes and bludgeoned a Suns squad that had no intention of trying to win what turned out to be a 103-88 victory for Utah.
"The main thing is we won the ballgame," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We didn't play a great game, but I thought we played well enough to win the ballgame."
That was especially the case in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Jazz entered the final period ahead 75-71, despite the fact they'd led by double digits for multiple stretches and that the tank-mode Suns forced leading scorer and spark plug Goran Dragic to rest for the night.
Five minutes later, though, the Jazz enjoyed a cushy 19-point lead after the group of Alec Burks, Hayward, Marvin Williams, Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson went on a 17-2 surge.
"We really focused and buckled down defensively and made their shots all difficult, challenged their shots," Hayward said, "and executed really well offensively."
Hayward and Jefferson each scored 25 points to lead the Jazz, who won a second straight game for the first time since a mid-February three-game winning streak.
Mo Williams repeated "Absolutely" three times when asked if stringing together victories for the first time in over a month felt good.
Now, he added, the Jazz "got to go get a win" in Portland on Friday to keep the momentum going.
Williams had 10 of the Jazz's 30 assists, and the team shot 51.8 percent while reaching the .500 mark again at 36-36.
The victory helped Utah remain one game behind the Lakers, 120-117 winners at Minnesota, for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 10 games to go.
Though Utah played most of the night without Kanter, who'll have an MRI on his shoulder today, the Jazz got a big bench outing from Favors. The 6-10 backup had a game-high 13 rebounds to go with nine points and two blocked shots.
Overall, the Jazz made up for lackluster second and third quarters by outscoring the Suns by 11 points in each of the first and fourth periods. Utah also held outmanned Phoenix to 44.7 percent shooting and only 17 fourth-quarter points.
"They're still an NBA basketball team. They're playing freely out there. They're playing pretty loose," Hayward said of the Suns. "It's tough to guard people when they're just out there playing. I thought we did a good job of kind of weathering the storm. They went on their run and we answered back with our own. That's a good sign."
Another good sign was the fact Utah had a solid start. Hayward scored 10 of his 25 in the first quarter, which ended with the Jazz leading 34-23.
That was the highest-scoring opening period of the season for the Jazz, whose previous best 12-minute start was 31 points against the Clippers way back on Dec. 3.
Randy Foye, playing after dealing with gastric distress earlier in the day, hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to put the Jazz up 53-44 at halftime.
Despite clearly hoping for a loss, the Suns charged back in the third quarter to pull within four before Utah quickly put them away in the final quarter.
Wesley Johnson scored 22 points; Luis Scola had 20; and rookie point guard Kendall Marshall dished out a career-high 13 assists. But the Suns fell to 23-49 with their fourth straight loss.
This game was better for Phoenix to lose in the grand scheme — not just to improve its lottery position, but also because the Suns will benefit if the Jazz leapfrog the Lakers. If L.A. finishes out of the playoffs, Phoenix gets the Lakers' lottery pick. Otherwise, the Suns will receive Miami's first-round pick.
"I thought we relaxed a little too much," Hayward admitted.3 comments on this story
But, Burks pointed out, "We played our best at the end and got the win."
As for Kanter's shoulder, the 6-11 center was all smiles while sporting a sling.
"I'm all right," he said.
Hayward, who had his own shoulder issues earlier this season, shuddered while recalling the injury.
"The shoulder was abnormal for sure, so you knew something was wrong," he said. "You saw guys from both teams looking at their shoulders and checking theirs to make sure it still worked."
Fortunately for the Jazz, they got their game working when it counted, too.