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Preview: Suns get one more chance against the Jazz

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Phoenix tries to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Jazz.

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

What: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns

When: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. AZ time

Where: Right here in the desert, Phoenix, Arizona, Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Yes, we’ve been here before. A few times, lately. Suns coach Igor Kokoskov will face his former team for the third time in just the last two and a half weeks, and the fourth time this season. All losses.

The Suns are used to fleeting glimpses that they can hang with the Jazz. They had the lead just seconds before the fourth quarter two weeks ago and then pulled within 14 at the start of the fourth quarter last week, only to see the playoff-bound Jazz outscore them by 33 in those fourth quarters combined. /gif of balloon losing its air

Unfortunately, Igor’s band of merry men has been too short on talent, skill and execution at the hands of the entire NBA, let alone Quin Snyder’s Jazz.

The Jazz

Out: Dante Exum

Questionable: Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver

Utah is a half-game ahead of the streaking Los Angeles Clippers for the 5th seed and a chance to face the 4th-seeded Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

But if they can only drop one measly spot, they get to face the streaking-but-suddenly-limping Portland Trailblazers, now missing starting center Jusuf Nurkic for a long long time (don’t google it) and starting guard C.J. McCollum until at least the start of the playoffs (knee strain). Yet the Blazers have won 10 of 12 games anyway and have an easy closing schedule.

However, the Jazz — who have won 10 of 11 and 15 of 19 overall — might also have designs on climbing all the way to the 3rd seed, though there’s only five games left in the season to gain two more wins on those 49-31 Blazers.

Either way, it’s good to note that the Jazz’ final game of the season is against those Clippers, and it might be a fight for the right to play a could-be-reeling Blazers team relying on the likes of Enes Kanter and Zach Collins against Rudy Gobert.

The Suns

Out: Deandre Ayton, Kelly Oubre Jr., Tyler Johnson and T.J. Warren

Meanwhile, after winning on Monday night, the Suns are now only one game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the race for the second-most lottery balls.

While both teams are virtually locked into equal 14% chances at Zion Williamson, whoever finishes second can only drop as low as fifth in the lottery results, while the third-worst record can drop all the way to sixth. The higher the non-Zion pick the Suns have, the more value it will have in trade.

Keith covers the Suns options and upcoming schedule here very well.

Let’s get back to this game against the Jazz.

Last time these teams met, Devin Booker created a meme that will hang around his neck like a paperweight until the Suns start consistently winning. Well, at least the “59 in 33” game pushes the empty 70-point game into the distance. Now, he’s “59 in 33” guy — the guy with the most points in the biggest loss ever — and the poster child for empty stats.

Not sure how Devin can reverse that image on Wednesday night, but hopefully in the years to come his scoring will actually make a difference for a winning team in Phoenix.

Prediction

How can I reasonably predict anything but a 20-point Jazz win?

The Jazz are fighting tooth and nail for playoff positioning and definitely have the Suns number. And the Suns aren’t even playing Deandre Ayton to combat Rudy one-on-one. All they’ve got is Richaun Holmes and... Dragan Bender.

Jazz by 20.