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Rapid Recap: Suns struggle, eventually beat short-handed Jazz, 115-109

NBA: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns played dramatically uninspired basketball for three quarters, giving life to an incredibly short-handed Utah Jazz team missing all of their starters and their top backup.

Utah’s Trent Forrest made 7 of his first 8 shots to lead the team most of the night with 17 points, but he wasn’t alone. The Jazz had a very Suns-like seven different players score 10+ points as 8 of their 9 players scored at least 6.

The Suns were not getting such help up and down the rotation. Devin Booker scored 33 points in the first three quarters to keep the Suns alive, and Chris Paul scored a gobton in the 4th to put the Suns up 11 with just three minutes to go.

Jordan Clarkson made it interesting by making three straight threes to pull the Jazz back within five points, but then Book stole the ball on Clarkson’s next possession to help seal the win.

Suns win, 115-109, in a tighter-than-expected game.

Suns leaders:

  • Davin Booker, 33 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks
  • Chris Paul, 27 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds — NEARLY A TRIPLE DOUBLE... and another 40 minutes played*
  • Bismack Biyombo, 16 points, 13 rebounds, 1 block
  • Cameron Johnson, 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals

*That’s two straight games the Suns needed 37-year old Paul to play 40 minutes to beat a team missing ALL FIVE of their starters.

Suns have now won 7 straight, and tied the franchise-best start to any season at 37-9.


GAME FLOW

Tons of people out.

Jazz are missing their whole usual starting lineup AND top backup Joe Ingles. All are day-to-day and only Donovan Mitchell missed the game the day before, a loss to the Warriors. But day after is day after...

The Suns are missing Ayton (4th game missed) and Jae Crowder (1st) in the starting lineup, plus Cam Payne (1st) off the bench.

But the Suns still have their two All-Stars while the Jazz do not have their three.*

Quick aside here: the Jazz were rewarded with a third All-Star last year (Mike Conley Jr.), basically for having the best record in the league... a few years ago, the same happened with the Atlanta Hawks, who got four in the game for having the best record. Too bad Ayton’s been missing or he might be the third Sun.

The Suns opened up the game scoring on just about every possession, taking an early 18-7 lead that included the Suns making 54% of their shots, but grabbing 5 offensive rebounds to score nearly every time they got the ball.

Once the subbing started for both sides, the quality of the game leveled off. Booker continued to be the offense. With Elfrid Payton running the second unit there weren’t as many open shots. Booker had to create for himself a few times.

Book finished the quarter scorching hot with 17 points on 8-13 shooting (just 1-5 on threes), and the Suns had a 31-21 lead after one.

Chris Paul led the Suns into the second quarter, setting up more scores and the Suns kept the lead, 44-33, despite the Jazz bench guys getting hot from three point land (6 of 14) while the Suns were not.

The game got scrappy, which worked in Utah’s favor. The Jazz got the score within two (53-51) and then took the lead (56-55) as the Suns just could not refocus after bringing the starting group back. Suns just kept missing shot after shot, while the Jazz hustled into their scores.

Cam Johnson drained a three from the corner to put the Suns back up, but the second quarter was a struggle for the Suns. They got that early lead and just lost their focus.

Suns lead, 58-56, at half.

The Suns did not come out much better in the second half, allowing the Jazz to break down the perimeter defense with drives into the paint for scores. JaVale was having a tough time defending without fouling. He picked up his 4th foul about two minutes in, and was replaced by Biz.

The Jazz took the lead within four minutes, 68-67. Trent Forrest is now up to 15 points on 7-8 shooting as the fill-in point guard. Forrest has a career average of 2.4 points per game over 66 NBA appearances.

The Suns are simply not playing much defense here, allowing a 6-man-down Jazz team to score at will.

The Jazz maintained a two-point lead going forward, putting a lot of pressure on the ball and in the passing lanes, and the Suns were just a step slow. When Chris Paul finally took a breath, the Suns were down 77-75 with about 3.5 minutes left in the third.

Devin Booker scored the next five points to put the Suns back up, giving him 33 points (though it’s taken 26 shots to get there). He’s trying to will the team to victory on his shooting alone, but he’s not quite hot enough to do it. The Suns need someone else to step up.

Suns down 87-85 after three. The Jazz have five players with 10+ points in this one, shooting 54% as a team, 50% on threes. Shot 14 free throws to the Suns 4. Suns shooting okay. Doing some things okay, but nothing really well. They just can’t stop the Jazz.

The Jazz were drawing fouls by that point, getting to the line on most trips down which kept the Suns at bay. Suns fouls were piling. Biyombo with 3. Booker and McGee with 4, both sitting now for the stretch run.

Add in that the Suns are not getting much from the bench outside of Biyombo — Landry Shamet 1-5 on threes, Ish and Payton don’t shoot...

But then Chris Paul decided it was time to Chris Paul this game. Jumper. Three. Assist in traffic to Biyombo. Jazz timeout. Suns up, 98-95. Another three. Suns up 101-95.

It’s CP time, and this game is over.