When: 1:30 PM AZ time
Where: Footprint Center
Watch: ABC/Bally Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
A home loss is never welcome. But after returning from Oklahoma City to play on the second night of a back-to-back, it’s easy to see why the Phoenix Suns could not find the strength needed to come back against a new-look New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
With a full day’s rest to recharge, coach Monty Williams will hope to see a better performance from his team against the Utah Jazz.
Phoenix has not lost consecutive games in 2022, with a remarkable record of 22-3 in the New Year. But can the Suns find their groove against one of their main competitors in the West?
- Devin Booker
- Cameron Johnson
- Jae Crowder
- Mikal Bridges
- Deandre Ayton
- Mike Conley Jr.
- Donovan Mitchell
- Royce O’Neal
- Bojan Bogdanovic
- Rudy Gobert
Throughout the 2021-2022 season, the Suns have found ways to climb back into games, constantly proving their ability to ‘flip the switch’ almost at will.
But their 117-102 loss to the Pelicans highlighted just how much as team the Suns missed their future Hall of Famer, Chris Paul. His commanding presence would likely have helped the Suns efforts to slow down the Pelicans, as New Orleans went off for 42 points in the third quarter to take control of the game. The Pelicans’ took a 16-point advantage into the fourth, which proved to be too much for the Suns to overcome.
After the game, Williams spoke about how the extra effort battles were mostly being won by the visitors.
“[New Orleans’] ability to come up with 50-50 balls and rebounds and what they did in the paint, it tipped the scale in their favor,” Williams said. “There were times we got stops, we just couldn’t come up with the ball.”
Confidence in the Paul-less Suns was high following their victory over the Thunder on Wednesday. A similar level of point distribution will be necessary against the Jazz, as six players scored 10+ points against the Thunder on Thursday, including three players over 20 points.
Sweeping the season series against the Utah Jazz, one of the Suns’ main competitors in the West, would certainly send a message. But can the Suns make such a strong statement without their starting point guard?
It has been an up and down start to the New Year for the Utah Jazz. Despite winning 7 of their last 8 games, the Jazz are only 11-13 since the start of 2022.
But in their first game after the All-Star break, the Jazz defeated the Dallas Mavericks, 114-109. A tightly contested game throughout, the Jazz used a 9-2 run in the final 3 minutes of the game to secure the win. Donovan Mitchell continued his strong resurgence since returning to play, scoring 33 points on 11-19 from the field, including 7/12 from beyond the arc.
Mitchell missed eight games between Jan. 18-Feb. 3 after entering the league’s concussion protocol. According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, this was his fourth concussion, and even more worryingly, his second in the last year.
Nevertheless, since his return to play, Mitchell has been on fire for the Jazz. In these last seven games played, Mitchell has scored above 30 four times and only scored less than 20 once, averaging 28.1 points per game while hitting 4.5 threes a game on an efficient 45.7%.
The Jazz are also re-introducing Rudy Gobert into the lineup. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had missed 9 straight games with a calf injury, before returning for the last two games before the All-Star break. Gobert looked to be pretty close to full fitness on Friday against the Mavericks, posting an elite 14 point, 17 rebound double-double, and made three blocks as well.
The Jazz will be hoping to build some momentum from this home win, as their visit to the Valley marks the start of a five-game Western Conference road trip.
Tough to see the Suns being able to contain Mitchell in this form without Paul, even with Bridges and Crowder in the Suns’ lineup. Booker has owned this matchup recently, but outside of him posting 40+ points and 10+ assists, the Jazz will win an extremely close and entertaining game on Sunday.