SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz lost another tough battle on the road against a Finals contender, this time against the Phoenix Suns 117-113. The Jazz have now lost two consecutive games away from home and have seen their lead in the Western Conference dropped to just 1.5 games.
The Jazz fumbled through another poor shooting night from the three-point line, but a strong defensive performance and 41 points from Donovan Mitchell gave the team a chance to win the game in overtime before ultimately coming up short.
Devin Booker and Chris Paul combined to score 64 points in the Suns’ win, extending their win streak to a tie for the league’s best at seven games.
Jazz Turn In Another Poor Shooting Night
Just 48 hours after the team’s 12-44 three-point shooting performance against the Dallas Mavericks, the Jazz had an even worse night against the Suns. The Jazz shot just 11-44 from deep for just 25 percent, their worst connection rate of the season, while their 11 makes were tied for the second-lowest of the year.
Over their last two games, the Jazz are just 23-88 for just 26 percent. For the season, the Jazz shoot 39.2 percent from beyond the arc, the fourth-best in the NBA, but haven’t been able to buy a basketball over the last 48 hours.
While it’s easy to chalk the Jazz last two losses up to basketball being a make or miss game, they paint a picture of how the team could paint themselves into an early playoff exit by stringing together a few ugly shooting nights.
“We have to keep shooting, we are one of the teams that is shooting the best percentage and we are shooting probably the highest number of threes in the whole league,” Bogdanovic said. “We’ve got great shooters, we have to stay confident and keep taking those threes.”
Bogdanovic and Mike Conley were the Jazz main offenders against Phoenix, combining to shoot just 2-15 from the three-point line though both players found a way to impact the game.
Bogdanovic scored 20 points on 8-17 shooting while Conley scored 11 points, connecting on five of his final six shots and adding four assists.
Jazz Outbattled On The Glass
In addition to the Jazz poor shooting night, they were badly outbattled on the glass by the Suns. Phoenix grabbed 16 more rebounds than the Jazz including nine more on the offensive glass leading to a nine point advantage on second-chance points.
DeAndre Ayton grabbed seven offensive rebounds, including five in the fourth quarter alone giving the Suns a four point second-chance advantage over the final 12 minutes.
Too often, either Rudy Gobert or Derrick Favors were forced to slide over to help defend the rim, only to see the Suns get an easy put-back layup on an offensive rebound because the other defenders didn’t finish the possession.
“I’m 6’3 and DeAndre is 7’0, but we know it starts before jump starts before you jump, it starts before that,” Mitchell said. “You’ve got to crack and get into his legs so he can’t jump. But we’ve got to win those 50/50 balls and long rebounds. I think that’s what really separates the game.”
Mitchell finished with a healthy eight rebounds, but Bogdanovic grabbed just one board in nearly 40 minutes on the floor. The Jazz are going to have improve on those small details against the best teams in the NBA as the season winds to a close.
Last postseason, the Jazz could have swept the Denver Nuggets in the first round had it not been for an eight-second violation by Mitchell late in the fourth quarter of a game that went to overtime. Against Phoenix, the Jazz allowed too many offensive rebounds late, some of which came purely off of a lack of focus on rebounding assignments.
The Jazz have the best record in basketball but will have to prove they can execute the smallest details in close games to ensure a better finish to the season than last year.
Jazz And Suns Schedules From Here
Despite Wednesday night’s disheartening loss, the Jazz should feel very confident about their ability to fend off the Suns down the stretch and retain the top seed in the Western Conference.
With 21 games remaining, the Jazz have 12 games that will be played at home where the team currently owns a 21 game win streak. The Jazz are 21-2 overall in Salt Lake City and haven’t lost since December 31, coincidentally to the Suns.
Included in the Jazz final 21 games are six matchups against teams that would be in the playoffs if they started today.
The Jazz face the Portland Trail Blazers at home on Thursday, travel to face the Los Angeles Lakers twice on April 17 and 19 who could be playing without LeBron James, return to Phoenix on April 30, before hosting the Nuggets and Trail Blazers before the end of the season.
Of the Jazz 21 final games, 15 come against non-playoff teams, nine of which will be played at home.
Phoenix on the other hand faces an incredible gauntlet to close the year.
The Suns have 22 games remaining this season, of which 13 are against teams currently poised to make the playoffs.
Beginning Thursday, Phoenix must play on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers, before hosting the Miami Heat in the middle of a five-game homestand. From there, the Suns head out on a five-game, eight-day Eastern Conference road trip with stops in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn, and New York.
Phoenix then returns home to host two games against the Clippers and Jazz for a stretch of seven playoff teams in 12 days, including the first and third-ranked teams in the West and the top three seeds in the East.
The Suns then will face the Atlanta Hawks on the road before hosting the Knicks, Lakers, and Trail Blazers to close the year.
In total, the Suns have seven road games against playoff teams to the Jazz three, and 13 games total games against playoff teams to the Jazz six. Furthermore, Phoenix closes the season with 13 of their 22 games played away from home.
Though the Suns closed to within a game and a half of the Jazz with a victory on Wednesday, the two teams’ remaining schedules pose complete different challenges that significantly favor the Jazz. The Suns now own the tie-breaker in the series having won the first two games of the season, but with the roads ahead, it shouldn’t matter.