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Game Preview: Top two teams face off! Suns, Jazz notes, keys and predictions

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The two best records in the NBA are set for a critical game in the race for the number one seed in the conference.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Gabriel Mayberry-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (35-14) at Utah Jazz (38-12)

When: Wednesday, 7:00 PM AZ Time

Where: Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona, ESPN

Listen: 98.7 FM


Suns. Jazz. Booker and Paul vs. Conley and Mitchell. Ayton vs. Gobert. The two top dogs in the West face off on ESPN in a crucial game for seeding in the Western Conference. Need I say more?

Phoenix has won 6 straight games— a season-high— and will look to surpass the 6-game mark and secure a season-high 7th straight win. They will also look to extend their home win streak to 6 games.

Utah is coming in fresh off a loss to the Dallas Mavericks team that was without Kristaps Porzingis on Monday night.

A Suns win tonight could cut Utah’s lead for the #1 seed to just 1.5 games, and start to make things very interesting in the race out West.

Projected Starters

PHX: Chris Paul—Devin Booker—Mikal Bridges—Jae Crowder—Deandre Ayton

UTH: Mike Conley—Donovan Mitchell—Bojan Bogdanovic—Royce O’Neale—Rudy Gobert


Injury Report

PHX: Abdel Nader— OUT (knee)

UTH: Udoka Azubuike— OUT (ankle), Elijah Hughes— DTD (illness), Juwan Morgan— OUT (calf)


3 Keys to the game

  • Bench Mob battle

The Suns and Jazz have two of the best bench units in the NBA, which is not a coincidence considering these teams hold the top two records in the association.

Utah’s bench trio of Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, and Derrick Favors is one of the best you’ll find. They’ll be matching up with Phoenix’s own trio of Dario Saric, Cam Johnson and Cam Payne, and the battle between these units should be instrumental in the outcome of the game.

  • Ayton vs. Gobert

The battle of the interior will be critical, as we’ve seen how an engaged Ayton can be a game-changer on both sides of the floor. If the big fella can stay out of foul trouble and serve as an active defensive anchor that should put the Suns in prime position to win the game.

The Jazz lead the NBA in rebounds per-game at 48.2, so it will be critical for the Suns to fight on the glass and box out. That starts with containing Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors down low.

  • 3 Point Shooting

Both of these teams can shoot lights out, but as illustrated in their most recent loss to Dallas, if the Jazz have an off shooting night they are extremely beatable. The Suns must defend the three-point line at a high level and force Utah to play outside of their comfort zone.

Utah is 2nd in the NBA in three-point percentage at 39.5% as a team on a league-high 43.0 attempts per-game. Phoenix ranks 8th in three-point percentage 37.9% on 34.3 attempts per-game.


In the first meeting between these two teams, the Suns held them under 100 points. They are the only team to do so against Utah in a win.

Prediction

The Suns continue their successful run against top-tier teams and show up on the big stage to pull out a hard fought win and cut Utah’s lead to just 1.5 games.

Final: PHX- 111, UTH- 107