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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns face Utah Jazz in likely Ayton return

The Suns could be fully healthy by Wednesday if Durant returns. For now, they face what seems to be an undermanned Jazz team

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

What: Phoenix Suns (38-35) at Utah Jazz (35-39)

When: 6 p.m. AZ time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: Bally Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM

DraftKings Betting Lines: Suns (-6.5), over/under 234

The Phoenix Suns face the Utah Jazz Monday night. The game will be televised by Bally Sports Arizona.

This will be the third and final meeting between the Suns and Jazz this season. Phoenix lost the first game in Utah Nov. 18, 134-133, and won a narrow meeting at home Nov. 26, 113-112.

The Jazz are led by All-Star forward Lauri Markkanen, who is averaging 25.7 points with 8.6 rebounds per game. Guards Jordan Clarkson (20.8 points per game) and Collin Sexton (14.3 points per game) are Utah’s next-leading scorers.

Utah was the top team in the Western Conference early in the season, but it has since been an up-and-down team. The Jazz have lost three straight games entering Monday’s contest after they won four of five.

Utah is led by first-year coach Will Hardy, who was an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs from 2015-2021 and then with the Boston Celtics last season, when they went to the NBA Finals.

The Suns will have seven games left in the regular season after this contest. They currently rank No. 4 in the Western Conference and one-half of a game above the Los Angeles Clippers.

Utah is No. 12 but is within a game-and-a-half of the No. 10 seed for the play-in tournament. The Suns will have no easy games the rest of the way in a loaded Western Conference.

Here are some of the notable statistics for each team provided by TeamRankings.

  • Points per game: Phoenix (No. 18, 113.7), Utah (No. 6, 117.3)
  • Assists per game: Phoenix (No. 3, 27.3), Utah (No. 10, 25.9)
  • Rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 8, 52.4), Utah (No. 5, 54.1)
  • Average scoring margin: Phoenix (No. 9, +1.7), Utah (No. 21, -0.5)
  • Offensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 17), Utah (No. 9)
  • Team shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 21, 46.9), Utah (No. 18, 47.2)
  • Effective field goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 21, 53.7), Utah (No. 14, 54.9)
  • 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 7, 37.7), Utah (No. 19, 35.8)
  • 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 28, 52.1), Utah (No. 10, 55.8)
  • Blocks per game: Phoenix (No. 10, 5.1), Utah (No. 5, 5.4)
  • Steals per game: Phoenix (No. 15, 7.2), Utah (No. 29, 6.3)
  • Turnovers per game: Phoenix (No. 14, 13.9), Utah (No. 27, 15.4)
  • Opponent points per game: Phoenix (No. 6, 112.0), Utah (No. 24, 117.8)
  • Opponent shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 7, 46.8), Utah (No. 17, 47.5)
  • Opponent effective field-goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 7, 53.5), Utah (No. 13, 54.3)
  • Defensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 8), Utah (No. 24)
  • Opponent 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 14, 36.0), Utah (No. 18, 36.6)
  • Opponent 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 6, 53.2), Utah (No. 12, 54.0)
  • Opponent total rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 14, 50.7), Utah (No. 17, 51.7)

Likely Starting Lineups

Phoenix Suns

  • G Chris Paul
  • G Devin Booker
  • G/F Josh Okogie
  • F Torrey Craig
  • C Bismack Biyombo OR Deandre Ayton

Utah Jazz

  • G Ochai Agbaji
  • G Talen Horton-Tucker
  • F Simone Fontecchio
  • F Kelly Olynyk OR Lauri Markkanen
  • C Walker Kessler



  • C Deandre Ayton (hip) is PROBABLE
  • F Kevin Durant (ankle) is OUT but may return Wednesday, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania


  • G Collin Sexton (hamstring) is OUT
  • F Rudy Gay (back) is OUT
  • G Jordan Clarkson (finger) is OUT
  • F Lauri Markkanen (hand) is QUESTIONABLE

Uniform Matchup

Courtesy of

What to Watch For

Every game is near a must-win for the Suns through the regular season’s final eight games.

Phoenix is No. 4 in the West and only dropped from that spot once since Kevin Durant sprained his ankle two weeks ago. The Suns’ star forward could return to the lineup Wednesday, which would be an immense boost to the team as it looks to build chemistry before the postseason.

The Suns have a perceived advantage against the Jazz, who could be without their top three players in this game. Clarkson and Sexton are out and Markkanen may be, but there is no team to take lightly in the NBA.

Utah is led by Hardy, who is the youngest coach in the NBA but has great experience under San Antonio Spurs leader Gregg Popovich and another assistant, Ime Udoka, who was the head coach for the Boston Celtics last season. The Jazz were one of the best teams in the NBA to start the season but have since faded.

However, Utah is still a difficult team since it plays well offensively and can hold its own on the defensive end. The Jazz have lost three in a row, so they will be looking to get back on track against Phoenix in hopes of making the NBA play-in round.

All-Time Meetings

The Suns and Jazz have played 195 times dating back to the 1974-75 season, when Utah was then-known as the New Orleans Jazz. Phoenix has won 100 of those games.

The Suns and Jazz have split their last four meetings after Phoenix held a six-game winning streak from the 2019-20 season to 2021-22 campaign.

Keys to a Suns Win

Utah will be undermanned Monday night, as will the Suns without Durant. However, Phoenix could return center Deandre Ayton, which would be a massive boost for this game and later in the regular season whenever Durant returns.

Utah’s expected starting lineup will be relatively young, as 31-year-old Kelly Olynyk was the eldest player in their lineup Saturday against the Sacramento Kings. Ochai Agbaji is a rookie from last year’s NCAA champion, Kansas, and guard Talen Horton-Tucker (22 years old) and center Walker Kessler (21) are also young.

Kessler is perceived to be a strong defender and shot-blocker, which could cause some trouble for Ayton Monday night. The Suns’ starting center will have to rely on his athleticism and experience against Utah’s young center.

It may be repetitive and expected, but this should be another easy opportunity for Devin Booker to show out. Horton-Tucker is a lengthy player with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, but Booker is one of the best shot-creators in the NBA and could take advantage of Utah’s youth Monday night.

Markkanen poses a big challenge for the Suns’ defense and may force coach Monty Williams to play bigger. He can stretch the floor and score at any range, which makes things difficult for bigs in today’s NBA.

Expect that to be the matchup to watch for if Markkanen plays. He had 38 points in the first meeting between the teams, when the Suns had the benefit of last year’s Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, Mikal Bridges.


The Suns and Jazz have played close games this season, but this should be an opportunity for Phoenix to take care of business on the road. We expect them to do just that.

The Suns will get a dominant win Monday night and then hopefully for them, return Durant Wednesday and secure a top-four seed in the Western Conference.

Suns 117, Jazz 101

When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube.

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