SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz did what they were supposed to do on a crazy Monday night at Vivint Arena.
Facing the Western Conference-worst Phoenix Suns after a four-game road trip against some of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference, the Jazz started a bit slow, but dominated the second and fourth quarters en route to a 125-92 victory.
The outing came on a night when the loudest cheers were for Suns newcomer and former BYU guard Jimmer Fredette and for the Chick-fil-A fans received when Phoenix rookie De’Anthony Melton missed two free throws with 19 seconds to go.
Utah has now won seven of its last eight games. Each of those victories, starting with a March 13 contest against this same Suns team, has come by at least 16 points.
At 44-30, the Jazz are tied for fifth in the Western Conference standings with the LA Clippers (Utah has the tiebreaker) after the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night. The Jazz are 2.5 games behind the Portland Trail Blazers for fourth after they beat the Brooklyn Nets in double overtime.
Not only was the atmosphere a strange one at Vivint Arena, but the final box score was weird, too. All five Utah starters finished in double figures, led by Rudy Gobert’s 27 points, but no bench players did. Even stranger, Phoenix guard Devin Booker lit up the scoreboard for 59 points, but none of his teammates scored more than nine.
For the night, Utah shot 56 percent from the field while the Suns connected on just 41 percent of their shots. The Jazz tallied 31 assists compared to just 12 for Phoenix and scored 34 points off 22 Suns turnovers while Phoenix scored just 15 off 14 Utah giveaways.
“For us, we just tried to make it as tough as possible, but when (Booker’s) hitting fadeaways from the baseline falling out of bounds, it comes to a point where you’ve just got to tip your hat,” said Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who scored just 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting. “For us, we mainly focused on the game plan.”
The Jazz more than doubled up the Suns in points in the paint, 70-32, largely thanks to Gobert getting what he wanted near the basket. The Frenchman went 9-of-11 from the field and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line.
“The free throws, I think, were the thing that made me feel good,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said in assessment of Gobert’s performance. “His teammates look for him. ... I think he had a couple and-ones. When he’s doing that and finishing with a dunk and making a free throw, that’s a big play.”
While the Jazz pulled away in the second quarter, leading by 19 at intermission, their start was typical of how they perform in the first home game after a long road trip, as they trailed 14-10 midway through the first quarter.
But thanks to seven Phoenix turnovers in a span of three minutes, Utah went on a 10-0 run to start gaining separation. The Jazz led by five after the first frame and then won the second stanza 36-22.
The Suns cut the deficit to 14 entering the fourth quarter, but Utah promptly scored the first nine points of the frame to effectively put the game away.5 comments on this story
“When we have the same mindset every night and we bring that defensive mindset, we usually play well,” Gobert said.
Although Utah held its opponent under 100 points for the fifth time in eight games, Snyder did have some frustration over how his team defended Booker.
“We didn’t do a good enough job,” he said. “He had a big game. I think we can get better. We can do a better job.”
Up next for the Jazz is a Wednesday night game at Vivint Arena against the Los Angeles Lakers, who were eliminated from playoff contention last weekend.