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Phoenix Suns trudge onward, take on Utah Jazz in SLC

The Jazz are struggling without Rudy Gobert, but still have a style of play that gives the Suns fits.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The Good Guys: The Phoenix Suns, 12-17 and it somehow feels worse than that

The Bad Guys: The Utah Jazz, who play really really slow

Where: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

When: 7PM AZ Time

The Tube: Fox Sports AZ

Remember how the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz were supposed to battle eachother for a playoff spot this season? Well that's still technically the case, but nobody expected it to play out this way. The two teams are currently 8th and 9th in the standings, but have a combined record of 23-33 in the suddenly mediocre Western Conference.

While the Suns' comical 4th quarter misadventures have been their most notable storyline of the still-young season, the Jazz have been handicapped with injuries to key players. First Dante Exum tore his ACL during the summer, decimating the point guard rotation that was already a bit on the shallow side, then defensive superhuman Rudy Gobert suffered a knee sprain that will keep him out of action until mid-January.

Utah has gone 3-6 since losing Gobert as their Defensive Rating has plummeted from first to 18th in the NBA (105.6). The good news is that their shooting has come around -- in particular Trey Burke has been moved to a sixth man role and is having a career season with 38.6% shooting from deep and a 15.7 PER. The Jazz as a team are 7th in the NBA with a 36.4% mark from outside.

Unfortunately for Phoenix, they are also the slowest team in the league (91.4 pace) and play the grinding, ball-control type of game that gives the Suns fits. Additionally, they start 6'8 Rodney Hood at shooting guard, who is long enough to envelop Brandon Knight like a giant squid.

We have seen Knight get completely taken out of games before. Don't expect much from him in this one.

Probable Starters

Phoenix Suns Utah Jazz
G Eric Bledsoe Raul Neto
G Brandon Knight Rodney Hood
F P.J. Tucker Gordon Hayward
F Jon Leuer Trey Lyles
C Tyson Chandler Derrick Favors

The Suns have already suffered a slew of embarrassing 4th quarter performances this season, but there aren't many options for Jeff Hornacek to go with on this roster to stem the tide. This team has been built completely around the backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, and they need to step up and close out games when the chips are down.

Closing out games doesn't always mean a herculean scoring effort or even a big shot. Sometimes it's as simple as holding onto the ball or finding an open teammate, which has been a tall task so far this season for a pair of guards that are paid handsomely to make decisions with basketballs.

Perhaps this is just "who they are," but let's hope not.

Otherwise things are going to get a bit worse before they get better.

Prediction

Things get a bit worse.

Second night of a back-to-back, on the road against a team that plays way to slow to call themselves the Jazz -- frankly I don't think the Suns have enough fortitude to overcome any disadvantages at this point.

94-89 Jazz.