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In classic playoff fashion, Utah Jazz blow huge lead to blazing Suns

If there’s one thing the Jazz are elite at, it’s consistently embarrassing themselves come late spring.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

A late scratch before the game began, Cam Payne was ruled out due to right knee soreness, giving Aaron Holiday the primary ball-handling duties off the bench but it did not matter.

Despite being down by as much as 17 in the fourth quarter, the Phoenix Suns pulled off one of their best wins all season.

The Suns outscored the Jazz 36-13 in the fourth quarter, a complete turnaround from the struggles of the first three quarters.

The Suns now have a team record 64 wins and 32 road wins. The 32 road wins also tie a league record for road wins in a season.

First Half:

The game began in a pretty ugly fashion with five consecutive misses before Chris Paul ended the scoring drought with a wide-open elbow jumper. But for the Jazz the scoring drought would not end quite so easily as they missed each of their first eight shots and also committed two turnovers in that timespan.

The quarter was not even halfway through and it looked to be a Suns route as they led 11-0.

But once Bogdanovic scored Utah’s first basket of the game with an off-balance hook-shot, the Jazz started to look alive. Over the next four minutes, the Jazz scored 18 points on seven for ten shooting (four three-pointers) to make it a six-point game.

Phoenix ended the quarter up six and they were quite lucky to even be up that much. Utah missed a few wide-open threes and due to haywire Jordan Clarkson isolations, could not take advantage of their five offensive rebounds in the period.

The momentum stayed with Utah in the second as they opened the quarter with back-to-back dunks from Hernangomez and Gobert followed by a fastbreak layup by Danuel House to tie the game at 30 all.

The second quarter felt like the polar opposite of the first as Phoenix was the team that couldn’t buy a basket. Their first make of the quarter came almost five minutes into the period on an open dunk by Deandre Ayton.

A big key for the Jazz in the first half was the bench play. Utah had 26 bench points compared to the Suns’ 4.

Up 51-41 with three minutes to go in the half, Devin Booker took over. Book scored 11 points on four consecutive makes to give the Suns their first lead since the beginning of the quarter.

At the half, Utah led Phoenix 57-54.

Second Half:

After those first few minutes to open the game the Jazz never looked back. They started the second half hot, opening the quarter on a 15-6 run to extend their lead to double digits once again on the backs of Mitchell and Bogdanovic.

The Suns' struggles were exemplified by a 3 on none fastbreak that somehow became a turnover when an errant Chris Paul pass bounced off the hands of Booker straight out of bounds.

It took nine minutes for Booker to get his first basket of the second half which cut the Jazz lead to eight.

Late in the third quarter Booker pulled up for a shot and Utah’s Danuel House was called for a shooting foul but after head coach Quin Snyder challenged the call, it was not only reversed but the foul was now put on Booker for kicking his legs out.

That was a huge four-point swing for Utah who already had a 12 point lead at that point.

To call the third quarter abysmal for Phoenix would be a huge understatement. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.

On the last play of the quarter, the Suns forced a Mike Conley floater to miss only for it to end up as an and-one putback for Rudy Gobert. But then when his free throw missed, Utah secured the rebound and it turned into a buzzer-beating three by Jordan Clarkson.

Somehow, forcing a miss increased the Suns' deficit from 12 to 17 and the game was all but over.

Or was it?

Clearly, Phoenix cannot comprehend (and doesn’t want to) the concept of losing games as they opened the fourth on a 10-3 run to bring the game within 10.

Halfway through the quarter, it was only an eight-point game and Booker had not even seen the floor yet.

After an 11-0 run by the Suns, Utah led by just two with four minutes left and the game was anybody’s to take. Phoenix had no stakes in this game but they still played like their playoff lives were on the line.

After being nearly invisible most of the game, Mikal Bridges took the ball from the three-point line and made a nifty up and under layup through the three-time defensive player of the year Gobert to tie the game at 98. The Suns had meteor momentum on their side.

With under two minutes left the Suns got their first lead of the second half on a Bridges flush with under 90 seconds remaining.

The nail in the coffin for Utah came once again from no. 25 as Bridges got an and-one layup to give the Suns a two-possession lead and the game was over.

The Jazz Twitter account even preemptively prepared for this inevitable collapse.

In a meaningless game that Phoenix could have given up on, they played their starters and pulled off the upset road victory. The Suns proved tonight of all nights that they are playoff ready because they always take their opponent’s seriously, even if they shouldn’t.

Final score: Suns 111-Jazz 105

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