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Preview: Phoenix Suns (44-18) host Utah Jazz (45-17) in battle for top seed in the West

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The Suns could come out of tonight with the top overall seed in the NBA.

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns

When: 7:00 p.m. MST

Where: Phoenix Suns Arena

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM

Betting line: The Suns are getting 4.5 points at home; the ML is Suns -182


Here it is. The moment none of us expected but have nevertheless been waiting years for. The last time the Suns had the top seed in the Western Conference was 2005, the first season Steve Nash was in town and a remarkably similar season to this one. It’s been a while.

Of course, beating Utah isn’t the only thing standing in their way. There are nine games left after this one. But if the Suns can take down the Jazz at home tonight and then take care of business the rest of the way, they will have home court advantage through the entire postseason.


Starting lineups

Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Torrey Craig, Deandre Ayton

Utah Jazz: Joe Ingles, Georges Niang, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, Rudy Gobert

Read Dave’s write-up on the injury situation here.


Utah Jazz

45-17; No. 1 in the Western Conference

118.8 ORtg (3rd) - 107.4 DRtg (1st) = plus-11.4 netRtg (1st)

As you can see above, the Jazz are battered right now. It’s nice to be able to be patient with stars like Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, but Utah doesn’t have enough ground covered to lose any during this stretch run. That leaves them in a complicated place, needing to win games like these but simultaneously not wanting to rush anyone back.

Of course, even Utah’s B team is pretty solid. Joe Ingles is one of the best sixth men in the NBA and they still have Jordan Clarkson and Derrick Favors coming off the bench, too. That’s not to mention that just about any game featuring Gobert is going to be played largely on his terms.

As the betting line shows, the Suns are expected to win comfortably, but underestimating Utah is how you end up losing to them.


Phoenix Suns

44-18; No. 2 in the Western Conference

116.7 ORtg (7th) - 110.5 DRtg (5th) = plus-6.2 netRtg (3rd)

The main story tonight for the Suns is execution. They could get Dario Saric and Jae Crowder back, and that will help. But the Suns are favored for a reason. They should win this game. In order to do so, they will need to keep pace with a remade Jazz starting unit that features a ton of shooting while also winning the battle with Gobert at the rim. That’s doable but not easy.

This was my favorite stat going around after the Suns clinched a playoff appearance on Wednesday night: After beating the Clippers, Phoenix is 24-9 against teams with plus-.500 records. That’s the best in the NBA. If this season has taught us anything, it’s that the Suns will take care of business tonight.


Prediction

Both teams are coming in off the same amount of rest, but Utah is quite depleted without both parts of its starting backcourt. Expect a big game from Devin Booker and another night of celebration into the weekend.

Suns 118, Jazz 110