I predicted blood in this morning game preview, but had no idea whose blood would be spilled.
The Phoenix Suns improbably snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Jazz in impressive fashion, leading from start to finish.
And going it without Devin Booker having a great game. The Jazz focused their defensive plan on Booker, making the rest of the Suns beat them. They did.
The Suns bench outscored the Jazz 36-9, outscored them as a team in the paint 44-24 and never trailed.
Alex Len and Tyson Chandler combined for 20/20, with Alex Len contributing the most to those numbers. Dragan Bender didn’t fill up the stat sheet but was a defensive menace - as was the whole team - most of the game.
After the Suns took a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Jazz had one more push in them. They tried to bully the Suns with starters Gobert, Ingles, Favors, Rodney Hood and Ricky Rubio - all of whom are bigger than their Suns counterparts.
But the Suns were fighting anyway. And T.J. Warren just would not be denied all game.
The Jazz pulled within 8 with three minutes left, but it was too little too late. They just didn’t have the shot-making tonight to get all they way back on the Suns, even when the Suns stopped scoring themselves.
When Devin Booker walked into a three, he put the Suns back up 11 with just over a minute left and the game was over.
T.J. Warren finished with 27 points and 5 rebounds. Devin Booker had 17 hard-fought points, plus 6 rebounds and 3 assists, against Ingles/Hood.
Tyler Ulis had 13 points and 5 assists off the bench. Alex Len had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Suns are 2-3 now on the season.
Tyson Chandler was super-active, grabbing five rebounds (two offensive) and scoring twice for four points.
Mike James hounded Ricky Rubio on the defensive end, and the whole Suns team seemed super energized.
And Booker had another one of his chase-down blocks.
The Suns lead was still 14-8 when Josh Jackson was the first sub off the bench. Jackson immediately dribbled into a turnover.
The Suns offense looked more crisp and active than I’ve seen in years. Hopefully, this lasts longer than a quarter.
Unfortunately, once Len subbed in for Chandler, the Suns defensive rotations suffered and twice the Jazz got open shots at the rim (Rubio on a drive, Gobert on a dunk from a drop off). Both times, Len and James doubled one guy off a screen while the other shot free of distraction.
But the Suns held up overall, and took advantage of the Jazz possibly taking them lightly. Who cares how it happened, but somehow the Suns are UP 10 AFTER ONE QUARTER.10 AFTER ONE QUARTER.
23-13 Suns after one. Jazz shooting only 30% from the floor.
Dragan Bender drained a pretty three to start the second quarter, and Tyler Ulis finally starting looking like the Ulis from last season, using his quickness to get separation and set up teammates.
But it was the assists from Dragan Bender and later from Josh Jackson (behind the back) to Alex Len on drives to the basket that really got the crowd going.
Suns up 32-15 suddenly. Timeout Jazz.
The Jazz woke up a bit then, bringing most of their starters back into the game so it wouldn’t get too far away from them.
But the Suns once again held the line and kept scoring, including the surgence of Tyler Ulis, to keep the lead in double digits.
By the time the Suns scored 40 points, no fewer than 10 Suns had contributed at least one bucket. Alex Len was the high scorer with 7.
Then the Jazz DID have a run the Suns could not contain. It was too good to be true, right?
After leading 40-26, the Suns bobbled and fouled their way to allowing an 11-2 run.
But then once again the Suns held up, and went into the half leading 48-41.
At half, T.J. Warren and Alex Len were tied for the team lead with 7 points each. Five players had 4+ rebounds each, and seven had at least one assist.
Rodney Hood had 15 for the Jazz, Gobert had 11 and Rubio had 10. The Jazz still only were shooting 37% for the game.
Thank the lord for Tony Buckets!
As the Jazz tried to enforce their will in the second half, it was T.J. Warren who kept them at bay with a variety of scores.
But the Jazz would not be denied, inducing the Suns into five fouls within four minutes. But they couldn’t make their free throws, or enough of them anyway.
The Suns played tough D again, and Warren and Booker scored enough to keep the lead at 14 for the Suns.
Chandler, Bender, Len and Chriss all contributed to protecting the rim more often than not. What a sight to see, considering the porous D the Suns have been playing lately.
Suns up 63-51.
Suns have more points in the paint than the Jazz (28-18) and their bench is outscoring the Jazz bench 26-1.
Love the energy from the second unit, as much as from the starters. Tyler Ulis is the truth out here, creating space and taking great shots. This is the Tyler we saw last spring.
End of three, the Suns are still up 71-59.
Dragan Bender isn’t filling the stat sheet per se, but he’s having one heck of a defensive game - in the paint and on the perimeter. It’s fun to watch when he’s dialed in and gets a chance to play.
T.J. Warren picked up at the start of the fourth quarter like he did a quarter ago, scoring against the Jazz in a variety of ways. He scored the Suns first six points of the fourth, keeping the Jazz once again at bay.
I can’t really believe what I’m seeing here, Suns fans.
Within three minutes of the fourth, the Suns had a 18 point lead, with Warren leading the team with the most sublime scoring methods known to man. Warren was up to 25 points in 22 minutes.
Can the Suns really snap that 7-game losing streak to the Jazz? I hope so.