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Game Preview: The pesky Jazz are in town to play the Suns

A game can turn into a rock fight real quick against an opponent like Utah.

Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Who: Phoenix Suns (29-21) vs. Utah Jazz (26-26)

When: 7:00pm AZ Time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: 3TV and Arizona’s Family Sports

Listen: KMVP 98.7


The Suns have been playing well and, despite us seemingly focused on the narrow losses and blown leads while on the road, there is plenty to appreciate. Health is at the top of that list. Outside of Damion Lee, who has missed the entire season with a meniscus injury, Phoenix is finally healthy. And when healthy, they have been a tough team to beat.

Since January 11, the team has gone 11-3. They’re sporting a 122.4 offensive rating over that stretch and a +8.7 net rating. Devin Booker, Devin Durant, and Bradley Beal have taken their turns lobbing up 40-point performances and everything has begun to fall into place.

They bring that momentum into their game against the Jazz on Thursday night, a team that has been clicking in its own right on their path to a .500 record. Over the same time frame — since January 11 — the Jazz are 7-6. But their offense is certainly clicking, posting a 123.0 offensive rating and scoring 125.6 points per game. That is the second most in the NBA.

Like Phoenix, they enter on a two-game winning streak, having beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 124-117 on Tuesday night behind 33 points and 11 rebounds by Lauri Markkanen. Utah is certainly feisty and due to the offensive firepower they possess from the likes of Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton, and rookie Keyonte George, they are a team you must be ready to play for all 48 minutes. And maybe then some.

The Suns are 3-0 thus far against the Jazz this season, with one of their games going into double overtime for Phoenix to get the win.

Phoenix will be short-handed as they dealt four players today. Yuta Watanabe, Jordan Goodwin, Chimezie Metu, and Keita Bates-Diop were all sent out in a three-team deal with the Memphis Grizzlies and Brooklyn Nets. Phoenix received Royce O’Neale and David Roddy as a part of the deal.

Probable Starters

Injury Report

Suns:

  • Bradley Beal - QUESTIONABLE (Right Ankle Sprain)
  • Damion Lee - OUT (Right Meniscus Surgery)

Jazz:

  • Brice Sensabaugh - QUESTIONABLE (Right Ankle Sprain)

Uniform Matchup

What to Watch For

Lauri Markkanen can be a problem, as we’ve experienced in the past. His size and fluidity on the offensive end make him a tough player to guard. He’s averaging 26 points and 7.3 rebounds against Phoenix this year, shooting 51.9% and 38.1% from three-point range. His ability to score on three levels forces defensive gravity his way, which opens up the shooters around him. Utah is tenth in the NBA in three-point attempts (36.9) as a result, although they hit 35.8% (21st).

How Phoenix chooses to guard Lauri, knowing that the high-flying (but inconsistent) John Collins is lurking, will be something to pay attention to.

Despite beating them three times this season, it is teams like Utah that give the Suns fits. Athletic and physical. Utah plays with pace and can score with ease. It is their defense that lets them down. Hmmm. Sounds like a Western Conference version of the Atlanta Hawks. And we know how that went last week...

Key to a Suns Win

Rebounding. Rebounding. Rebounding.

The Jazz are second in the league in total rebounding and second in offensive rebounding. They keep throwing guys at you who are experts and getting to the ball. If it’s not Markkanen (8.6 rebounds a night) and Collins (8.0), it’s Walker Kessler (7.5 in 23.1 minutes played) or Kelly Olynyk (5.1 in 20.4). They pound the glass and lead the league in second-chance points.

Jusuf Nurkic, Drew Eubanks, and Bol Bol will have to do the heavy lifting, but team rebounding must be an area of focus. It might slow up your overall pace of play, knowing that you won’t be getting out and running because you’re focused on negating offensive rebounds. But you won’t have those momentum killers breaking your back when you allow them.

Prediction

With his start tonight, there is no team that Devin Booker has started more games against. That’s right, this is his 29th start against the Jazz. He’s averaged 25.2 points in his career against them. Tonight? Oh, tonight he goes for 45 points, helping the Suns win late against an annoyingly engaged Jazz team.

Suns 124, Jazz 119

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