In the second matchup in three days between the Jazz and Suns, Utah again came away with a big win, 111-92.
The big story going into this one was that it was Chris Paul’s first game playing with the Suns, and Jalen Smith was entering the starting lineup as well in place of Cameron Johnson.
Paul made his presence felt right away, especially on a couple nice dishes to Deandre Ayton.
Though Monty Williams said pregame he’d try to keep Chris Paul around 12 minutes, it appears the veteran guard could handle a little more, as he hit 8 before the end of the first half and played 18 overall.
Sticking with the new additions to the starting lineup, Smith flashed a lot of the offensive skill that James Jones praised after the draft. Not known for his face-up game at Maryland, Smith pulled it out a couple times against the Jazz.
Jalen Smith is really running pick and rolls and scoring and ones already. pic.twitter.com/rvN7Cogsu4— Mike Vigil (@protectedpick) December 15, 2020
However, when the second half started, Utah caught fire. The Jazz built up a 15-point lead just more than halfway through the third period. After a game in which Williams criticized his team’s defense, some of those same lumps showed up again in game two, with porous perimeter defense and too many open threes.
Bojan Bogdanovic in particular got whatever he wanted. That’s where the Suns will really be glad to get Jae Crowder back. They don’t have anyone to guard big scoring forwards right now.
The Suns’ mistakes built on themselves a bit, too, with missed shots giving Utah a rhythm in transition and allowing them to dictate the terms of engagement.
Midway through Utah’s run, Paul checked out for the final time and rookie Ty-Shon Alexander came into the game.
It wasn’t just that Utah was making shots in the second half. They also were wielding their size inside, as Rudy Gobert grabbed 17 boards and when Derrick Favors spotted him, the backup grabbed three offensive rebounds of his own. No wonder Ayton got some coaching from Paul when he checked out in the third quarter.
Williams put a group with four starters on the floor to start the fourth quarter, plus Jevon Carter. To me this was the coach sending a message: Fix the big lead you gave up last time you were on the floor to start the third.
The results came. The Suns went on a quick 8-0 involving back-to-back Mikal Bridges threes and forced a Jazz timeout. Though the lead was only cut to 18 after that run, it was nice to see Paul lead that unit in its response to Utah’s dominance. Can’t just roll over.
The starters stayed in a bit longer before they hung up their towels for the night. This team won’t be pleased with this performance, that’s for sure.