by Alma Bean
Featured Image courtesy Rick Bowmer, AP Photo
The Utah Jazz (11-6) wrapped things up at home against the Phoenix Suns (9-6) for the first game of a back-to-back.
Phoenix Feeling Blue
Straight out the gate, Utah could not miss. Phoenix coach Monty Williams had to call a timeout about two minutes into the game since Utah got off to a 13-3 lead. This was done with the help of 3/5 (60 percent) shooting from beyond the perimeter. As Utah started bringing in their secondary unit, they began to allow Phoenix to fight back after two straight turnovers once Collin Sexton (13 points) checked in. Devin Booker (49/8/10) put Phoenix on his back knowing that Chris Paul was not going able to play. Scoring 12 points in the first quarter, Booker led Phoenix to outscore Utah 32-29 after the first timeout. Within the perimeter, Phoenix went 13/19 (68.4 percent) giving Utah a run for their money but trailed 42-35 at the end of the first quarter.
After Utah shot 7/12 (58.3 percent) from beyond the perimeter in the first, Utah’s production from three-point range slowed down. Both teams continuously turned the ball over throughout the first half. Phoenix finished the half with ten and Utah not far behind with six turnovers committed. Along with turnovers, Utah continued to foul during the second quarter, allowing Phoenix to shoot 15 free throws. Booker went 9/9 (100 percent) which helped propel him to 23 points at the break.
Utah managed to have not one, but two players finish the half with 18 points. Lauri Markkanen (38/6/3) and Malik Beasley (27/3/1) were the light of Utah’s offense on different levels in this game. Beasley scored a majority of his points from the three-point line shooting 4/7 (57.1 percent) while Markkanen was able to find the bottom of the net anywhere on the floor. With these numbers, Utah couldn’t create separation on the scoreboard, but held on to a 74-66 lead at halftime.
Worth the Price of Admission
The second half felt like the development of an in-game rivalry between Booker and Markkanen. Nearly every possession had these two defending each other yet both were able to score at will. Booker racked up 14 points and Markkanen collected 15 points as well. Their respective rosters were also still able to produce. Utah shot 13/21 (61.9 percent) for the quarter. Even with a great shooting quarter, Utah couldn’t find a way to break away from Phoenix. Phoenix responded with shooting 16/24 (66.7 percent) and began to knock at Utah’s door trailing 107-105 going into the fourth.
Though the game came down to the final few possessions, the fourth quarter was the lowest scoring quarter for both teams (28-27). With Jordan Clarkson (20/2/3) shooting 8/16 (50 percent) from the field and 2/6 (33.3 percent) from three, Clarkson moved to sixth all-time in Utah Jazz history for made three-point shots made. Utah was able to force Phoenix into taking contested threes, going 3/10 (30 percent) for the quarter. Phoenix’s offense seemed to be narrowed down to Booker as the quarter got closer to an end. Phoenix even grasped their first lead of the game at 121-120 with just over seven minutes left in the game.
As time started to dwindle away, the game came down to Mike Conley‘s (13/4/10) defense. Locking down Cameron Payne with 32.5 seconds left, the momentum shifted to Utah. After running down the clock to give Phoenix little time to develop a play, Utah was not able to make their shot attempt to put the game away and Phoenix was given one more opportunity with 4.8 seconds left. Phoenix was able to inbound the ball but was unable to make the perimeter shot. Booker was able to get the offensive rebound and tried to get fouled in the paint but was unable to get the contact and made the shot. Utah pulled off the win, ending their three-game losing streak, with a final score of 134-133. Markkanen finished the game with a career-high in points with 38. Conley mentioned in his post-game interview that we have yet to see the ceiling of Markkanen.
The Utah Jazz (11-6) will travel to face the Portland Trailblazers (10-5) on Saturday night. Portland is currently first in the Western Conference while Utah is just behind in second. Tip-off will be at 8:00 p.m MT on NBA TV and AT&T SportsNet.