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Game Preview: Suns look to rock the Jazz in battle of back courts

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We have Donovan Mitchell vs Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio vs Mike Conley Jr., plus 15 or so other guys

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

What: Utah Jazz (2-1) at Phoenix Suns (2-1)

When: 7:00 PM AZ Time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


The Phoenix Suns have a winning record! The Phoenix Suns have a winning record! The Suns are 2-1 after a grueling opening weekend where they played in Denver and then hosted the vaunted Clippers on a back to back.

The one-point overtime loss to Denver, sans four of the team’s top rotation players in overtime (three fouled out of the game while one committed a life-foul) is acceptable, while the clear beating of the Clippers at home without Rubio or Ayton is positively life-affirming.

Smile proud, Suns fans!

Now the Suns take on a multi-faceted opponent in the Utah Jazz. On one hand, the Jazz represent another Finals contender on the Suns schedule, while on the other you’ve got some personal feuding between who’s the better young shooting guard and who’s the better point guard.

For some time, there has been a racer over whether Donovan Mitchell is a better player than Devin Booker, and Rubio was literally dumped by the Jazz in order to pay Mike Conley twice the money ($31 million per year vs. $17 million per year).

Let’s get into the preview.

Probable starters

Utah Jazz

The Jazz have started the year with a 2-1 record just like the Phoenix Suns. But so far, the teams they have beaten are the ‘who are we anyway’ Oklahoma City Thunder and Sacramento Kings, while they lost handily to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Conley had a rough start to the year, missing nearly every shot he took for a couple games, He is still only making 23% of his shots on the young season, and has only played 27 minutes per game while backup Emmanuel Mudiay (3rd on team in scoring with 11.7 per game) has put up numbers nearly as good as Conley in 21 minutes per game.

Joe Ingles (5.7 points) and Rudy Gobert (7.5 points) have yet to find their rhythm in the new offense while sharp-shooting acquisition Bojan Bogdanovic (21 points, 50% shooting/42.9% threes, 3.5 rebounds) and incumbent Donovan Mitchell (23.7 points, 58.7/50, 6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals) are smoking it early.

Overall, the Jazz are who they were last year and the year before that: great on defense (1st overall in the league), bad on offense (25th) and slow (28th). For more, look at the team matchups section.

Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns have a winning record!!! This the first time the Suns have won two of three to start a season since October 2015. Four. Years.

Regarding health and availability, sounds like Rubio will play, after missing Saturday’s game with a bone bruise on his thigh suffered while committing an offensive foul attempting to dribble the ball while Nuggets players threw themselves in his way.

Everyone else is healthy that’s been healthy so far. Ty Jerome will miss weeks with his turned ankle.

The bulldog Jevon Carter will get the primary backup point guard minutes like he has been all year. Clippers coach Doc Rivers cited Carter’s game on Saturday as a major influence on the Suns outworking and outplaying his team.

So much for just being that always unnamed player that was acquired for G-league Josh, Melton and a second round pick.

Carter is 7th on the team in minutes played (23.7 per game), is shooting 50% overall, 58% on threes and has a per-game stat line of 8.3 points, 3.3 assists, 2 rebounds and a steal per game.

Aron Baynes will continue to start for Ayton. Over the weekend against the Nuggets and Clippers, Baynes averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds while playing tough man D while setting some of the most massive screens.

The Suns best players so far are Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. Booker shook off a rough shooting start to the year, making 50% of his shots in the big win Saturday, and overall is putting up eye-popping numbers: 23.3 points, 8.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds while shooting is up to 45%/33% now. Oubre is the Suns spirit animal, with 21.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2 steals and a block a game.

In all, the Suns have 6 players averaging at least 4 three-point attempts per game with Cameron Johnson ready to join those ranks as he gets his legs under him.

Have I mentioned that I love this team? I love this team.

Stats Rankings (3 games)

Prediction

The Suns are at home where they are 2-0 to start the year, and have better non-Kings results than the Jazz, who beat the Thunder and lost to the Lakers.

The Suns have the league’s largest average margin of net rating (+11 points per 100 possessions) in the league, with wins over the Kings and Clippers with just that one-point overtime loss to the Nuggets in Denver. Even against tougher competition, and without some of their best players at times, the Suns have better rankings than the Jazz in most categories across the league.

The key to this game will be effort. On paper, the Jazz have a better starting unit, but the Suns are the ones winning so far this year with sheer effort and will.

I’ve got to throw caution to the wind and assume that the Suns will play their hearts out tonight just like they played their hearts out on Friday and Saturday.

Suns by 10.

Poll

Do the Suns beat the Jazz tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Yes!
    (216 votes)
  • 44%
    Hell YES!
    (270 votes)
  • 19%
    Nope
    (118 votes)
604 votes total Vote Now