When: 7:00 PM AZ time
Where: Home, at Talking Stick Resort Arena
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
After the Suns successfully executed the dead coach bounce on Monday night, beating the Sacramento Kings for their first win of the season, they get a dose of reality from the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz may have lost by almost 20 points last night to the surprising Clippers (yes, those same Clippers who smushed Earl Watson’s coaching career), but they are still the Jazz team that always makes the Suns look like a playground pickup squad. And now Rudy Gobert is back in the middle.
It’s a battle of styles. No, I don’t mean “execute their offense versus...uhh... not execute the offense”.
While the Suns try to run at breakneck pace (3rd in pace this year), the Jazz as usual try to slow it down and grind it out (30th in pace).
The 2-2 Jazz have five players averaging 10-14 points per game. Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert are their high scorers so far this year. Let that sink in.
Rodney Hood has been out injured for the last few games while rookie Donovan Mitchell takes over at shooting guard in his place. I know you think Mitchell is some kind of god for how he played in preseason against the Suns, but he's only making 26% of his shots since the regular season began so it’s a tough transition for any rookie.
Hood is questionable for tonight’s game.
Rudy Gobert is his usual monster self in the middle. He’s now the Jazz’ leading scorer (14.0 points per game) while grabbing 10.3 rebounds along with 1.5 blocks, 1.3 assists and just under 1 steal a game.
Ricky Rubio is back to his old self lately, dishing 7.5 assists per game but shooting under 40% from the field and 22% on threes. Wouldn’t you know that his great shooting, 0 assist performance against the Suns in the preseason was indeed a fluke.
Joe Ingles is Joe Ingles. Watch out for that guy. He will probably be the difference maker in this game, assuming there’s any suspense in the second half.
With new starting point guard Mike James, who’s really a combo guard but hey at least he wanna be here so let’s put him at point, the Suns came out hot against the Kings and finished with a flourish.
Can he repeat that performance against the Jazz tonight?
Rumors are, via Gambo on 98.7 FM, that the team “learned more in an hour under Triano than they had in a month under Watson”. That’s great, until you remember that Triano was the associate head coach during that month in question. But I do know from personal experience being totally in charge is completely different than being the lead assistant. So maybe it’s true.
I think it’s great, and apropos, that the Suns called up their top three coaches from the G-League team this week to fill out their NBA coaching staff. Maybe these coaches can help lift these kids up to G-League levels on a consistent basis. I really don’t think the NAZ Suns would have lost by 48 and 42 points to the Blazers and the Clippers in the past week, so I’m excited for this move.
I’m not expecting Triano and Ty Corbin to lead a defensive improvement for the team. Triano’s last two seasons coaching a team (2009-11 Raptors): 30th in defense. Corbin’s last full season coaching a team (2013-14 Jazz): 29th in defense.
The Bright Side: after giving up 126+ points in each of their first three games, the Suns held the Kings to only 115 on Monday night.
Triano has experience taking over on an interim basis. He went 25-40 after Sam Mitchell was fired, then 40-42 his second year. Only when his best player, Chris Bosh, went down did the whole team fall apart the next year (22-60). Triano has since developed a great reputation as a stellar assistant coach, and has helped lead a resurgence as the head coach of the Canadian National Team under the guidance of none other than Steve Nash.
The Suns best player early in the season is, of course, Devin Booker. While he still can’t seem to shoot straight (42% from the field, 27% on threes), he’s so far setting career highs in rebounds (5.8 per game), assists (4.3) and steals (1.3) while reducing his turnover rate to a career low.
T.J. Warren and a pair of rookies, Josh Jackson and Mike James, are the other offensive threats out there.
So yeah, it’s important for Booker to have a good game if the Suns want to compete.
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Devin Booker versus Donovan Mitchell
Two 20 year olds trying to make their name in the NBA bring different skill sets but might be the two most exciting players you see tonight.
Between Ingles and Mitchell (and Hood, if he plays), the Jazz will try to take Booker out of the game and make everyone else beat the Jazz defense.
If Booker can’t score, the Suns have no chance.