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Final Score: Suns survive the Jazz, win 106-95

The Suns bid adieu to 2020 with a challenging win over the Jazz.

Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Cheers, Suns fans! The longest year ever comes to a close in a couple of hours, and the Phoenix Suns ended it with a roller coaster ride that mirrored the year in which it was played.

Phoenix played game one of a back-to-back against the Utah Jazz on Thursday evening. It was the first time this season the Suns played in front of a live audience as fans are permitted at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City.

Defense was the name of the game as they held an opponent under 100 points for the second straight game, downing the Jazz 106-95.

The Suns record in the calendar year 2020, from January 1 to December 31, was 25-20.

Game Flow

The game began in true 2020 fashion: a delay due to a broken backboard cable. Like we haven’t waited for basketball enough this year.

After a night in which it felt the Suns could not miss against the Pelicans, it was a choppy start in Salt Lake.

Ayton found himself in early foul trouble, picking up 2 personals in the first. Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky, who didn’t play in the two preseason games against Utah, proved their worth in Ayton’s absence. Their ability to box out, rebound, and change shots on the interior negated the interior attack Utah attempted to deploy.

Although Booker had a rough 0-4 start, he began to tap into the talent we are used late in the first when he blew by Jordan Clarkson for the slam.

It’s great to see Booker attack the basket. Devin has had un-Booker-like start to the season, averaging just 19 points-per-game thus far this season 30.8% from deep. Granted, the Suns haven’t needed his 27-point performances. Team ball has triumphed for the Suns and the defensive attention Booker receives has benefited the Suns’ shooters. The Suns went 17-33 from behind the 3-point line.

He followed it up with a signature running jumper off the right side.

The Suns trailed by 1 at the end of the first, 22-21.

Phoenix stepped up the defense in the second as they pestered the Jazz, jumped passing lanes, and cut off drives. It really is impressive to experience a team that is consistently active on the defensive end. The Suns length and commitment to that side of floor equates to runs out, fast breaks, and easy baskets.

Jevon Carter, Cameron Payne, and of course Mikal Bridges lead the team in “we’re going to make you work for every possession” minutes.

Much akin to the game against the Pelicans, the Suns used the second quarter to create a lead. By halftime the Suns were up 13, outscoring Utah by 14 in Q2. The Suns shot 47.7% from the field and 7-18 from deep.

Let’s all take a moment to appreciate the efforts of Cameron Payne. One game it’s Zion, the next it’s Golbert:

His ability to finish around the rim with quickness, coupled with the unique angles and degree of difficulty in which he shoots, is something we haven't seen since Leandro Barbosa was a member of the Suns.

Utah began the 3rd on an 11-2 run, closing the gap and making a game of it once again.

Ayton continued to be a mystery for the Suns. 4 points?! Multiple times he found himself under the basket with the ball in his hands. The defense was collapsing around him. Rather than take the ball up strong and putting pressure on the opposition, perhaps even collecting an ever elusive foul, he passed the ball out. Yet his defense continues to be great. His finesse style bodes well for shot deterrence.

We’ll continue to try and solve the riddle that is Deandre Ayton well into 2021.

Back-to-back three’s by Mikal Bridges pushed the lead back to 9.5 Utah narrowed it to 5, Mikal 3-ball. The smoothness of his shot and the confidence in which he shoots it is becoming dangerous.

As lethal as a no-look Point Dario pass? Perhaps.

The Suns defense flustered Utah in the late stages of the third, once again creating offense. In a period that felt discombobulated at times, in which the Suns gave up 30 points, they scored 30 and entered the 4th up 13, 83-70.

Bridges always is tasked with the oppositions most potent offensive force. For Utah, that is All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. The Warden was running the asylum tonight, keeping Mitchell in check. He finished with 23. Every point was earned. Every possession was challenged.

The Phoenix lead ballooned to 19 in the 4th, but Utah kept grinding, not allowing the Suns to feel comfortable until the very end. Devin Booker had a few late turnovers led to Jazz three’s and the score was cut to 5 with under 2 minutes left.

Two back-to-back threes by Book, however, sealed the victory.

Next Up

The Suns fly to Denver tonight and will face off against the Nuggets tomorrow night at 7:00pm. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and the Denver Nuggets will be rested following a 10-point loss to the Sacramento Kings this past Tuesday. The enter the game with a 1-3 record.

Cheers to the end of 2020. It’s ironic that a year full of turmoil is potentially the year the Suns right the ship. We will take with us many memories from 2020 as their were countless sides. And the Suns were the bright side. Of the sun. Zing.

Happy New Years, Suns fans.

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