Grayson Allen knocked down a triple to give the Suns a three-point lead. Lauri Markkanen responded, hitting a short basket. Devin Booker made two free throws. Markkanen was then fouled until he wasn’t. The game was over. After another lackluster fourth quarter and more unnecessary overtime blunders, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Utah Jazz 140-137 to capture their seventh win of the season and their third straight.
With Devin Booker back in the lineup, the Suns are starting to find a way to win. Phoenix needs to stay winning to achieve their aspirations, but every dub can’t be like these last two, meagerly escaping due to herculean efforts from Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.
The Valley’s top stars all have their own injury history. Booker has already missed seven games this year, Bradley Beal is out for the unforeseeable future, and although Kevin Durant hasn’t missed a game yet, him being the oldest on the team a lengthy injury history suggests that him playing all 82 is unlikely.
The Suns have started doing the hard part, winning games. To keep the winning ways up, they need to start making sure games are decided before 48 minutes are up. Utah could have been put away many different times. Phoenix had a 61-50 lead with 2:10 remaining in the first half. Utah ended the second quarter on a 6-0 run including a pair of dunks that got the Salt Lake City crowd going.
Suns let Jazz go on 6-0 to end Q2.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) November 20, 2023
61-56 at the half.
If Phoenix’s 11-point lead was extended or held firm, Utah would have been less capable of coming back. A larger lead throughout the game would have prevented Booker and Durant from playing a combined 86 minutes, an unideal amount for a November game that does not count toward the In-Season Tournament.
It’s a long season. Sunday’s game and the battle against Chicago earlier this month are examples of how the Suns need to stomp on teams early. They need to preserve themselves for later in the season and not run the risk of injury or blowing late-game leads as they’ve already done countless times this season.
Mentally and physically it is not practical to expect Phoenix to win every game that comes down to the wire. Close contests are decided by razor-thin margins and sometimes contain a lot of luck blended into the outcome.
Today’s contest against Portland is a perfect opportunity for the Valley to dominate. The Trail Blazers, losers of seven straight, have lost four consecutive contests by a combined 75 points, an average defeat of 18.75 points per game. With a big game against Golden State tomorrow that is sure to be emotional and highly contested with Chris Paul returning to Phoenix for the first time, the Suns must take care of business early on against Portland to ensure maximal energy for their superstars and the team.
The goal should be to win the war, not the battle.