Catching an opponent playing its second game in as many nights is supposed to be an advantage, especially for the home team.
That recipe had served the Phoenix Suns well; one of their few successes this season.
But not on this night.
Right from the opening tip—won by visiting Utah—the Jazz assumed control and never let up, as they extended their season-long winning streak to six straight games with a 98-89 victory in front of a Saturday night crowd of 16,180 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
It was the Suns (14-38) seventh straight defeat.
The Jazz (25-25) recorded the game’s first 10 points, maintained a double-digit edge the entire first half and led by as many as 23 points in their wire-to-wire win.
All five Jazz starters scored in double figures with Rodney Hood (25) and Gordon Hayward (22) leading the way.
Rudy Gobert had 13 points, nine of which came at the foul line when the Suns employed the hack-a-Gobert and he responded with nine makes in 12 fourth-quarter attempts.
Gobert added 13 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.
The Suns had entered the game 7-3 against teams playing the second of a back-to-back. They got 18 points from Devin Booker and 17 from Markieff Morris, who flirted with a triple-double with seven rebounds and eight assists; the latter of which marked a new career-high.
Booker extended his streak of scoring 10 or more points to 11 games, the longest streak by a Suns rookie in 20 years.
Tyson Chandler chipped in 10 to go along with 14 rebounds in what was his eighth double-double of the season.
The Suns have lost 22 of 24.
It took the Suns less than seven second-quarter minutes to exceed their first-quarter point total. Morris made a three-foot lay-up at 5:13, capping a 9-0 run to cut the Jazz lead to 11, 36-25. Morris scored seven, on three-of-six shooting, in the period, which saw the Suns outscore the Jazz 23-22.
Not to be outdone, Archie Goodwin had his best quarter in the second. He scored the Suns’ last five points in the period with a free throw, dunk and lay-up; the two field goals came on the fastbreak with the dunk a one-handed flush in the face of Neto. Goodwin finished with seven second-quarter points.
Though he missed seven of his eight third-quarter shot attempts, Morris dished out a team-best six assists, three of which came during a 7-0 run to cut the Jazz lead to 15, 67-52 at 3:11. Morris accounted for 17 of his team’s 23 points in the period, which saw the Suns outscore the Jazz 23-18.
Eight of the Suns’ first 10 points to start the fourth quarter belonged to Mirza Teletovic. Twice he hit 3s, the second pulled the Suns to within 11, 79-68, at 8:17. Teletovic finished the game with 15 points, all coming in the second half; his second straight game scoring at least 13 points after halftime.
Things got interesting late in the fourth quarter. Booker hit back-to-back 3s to pull the Suns within six, 94-88, at 1:34; the closest they’d been since the opening minutes of the first quarter. Booker finished the period with a team-best 10 points on four-of-seven shooting, including the two 3s.
Six missed field goals, two technicals and a turnover is what the Suns accomplished in the game’s first 4:19. Morris accounted for three missed shots plus was T’d up by official Scott Foster for arguing a foul call. It was Morris’ fifth technical foul of the season, well shy of the 15 he was whistled for a year ago.
It began with a 16-foot pull-up jump shot and ended with a six-foot runner on the fastbreak. In between, Hayward had a dunk, seven-foot turnaround fade away bank shot and three free throws during a 17-6 Jazz run to close out the first quarter. Hayward finished the period with 14 points on five-of-seven shooting.
The first-half deficit reached as large as 20 points, when the Jazz scored on back-to-back possessions just minutes into the second quarter. Hood nailed a 26-foot 3-pointer, stole a Goodwin pass and setup Trevor Booker for an alley-oop dunk; the later made it 36-16 at 9:33. Hood scored eight in the period.
Halftime didn’t slow down Hood. He matched the Suns’ seven-point effort in the first five minutes of the third quarter with a seven-foot floater, two free throws and a nine-foot floater; the later of which gave the Jazz their largest lead of the game, 65-42, at 6:54. Hood finished the period with those seven points.
STAT OF THE GAME
10: Through the final three quarters, the Suns outscored the Jazz by 10 points, 77-67; but their first-quarter effort, or lack thereof, was too much to overcome
HE SAID IT
“That’s a tough team to come back on when you’re down 20. They do a great job of playing well, playing together. You know defensively they’re one of the best teams in the league,” head coach Earl Watson said. “Our guys came out, our bench guys mixed in with some starters and helped us get back into the game. They showed character. Character is big as we know. We have to start learning how to win games. We can’t just take these character wins and move on. This is a competitive group, our whole staff and our whole family here is competitive, and our program is competitive, so we want to start building wins.”
The Suns tied a season-low in turnovers with 10, or 14 fewer than the game previously against Houston.
In addition to Morris, Jordan McRae (1:14 1st) and P.J. Tucker (2:30 2nd) were called for technical fouls.
Orlando Johnson, who signed a 10-day contract on Friday, made his Suns debut at 4:51 of the first quarter.
Jon Leuer was a DNP-Coach’s Decision for the second time in the three games since Watson took over.
The Suns host Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant for the final meeting of the season series and the only home contest against the Thunder on Monday, Feb. 8. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The previous two matchups were both won by the Thunder, including the most recent contest on New Year’s Eve when T.J. Warren scored a career-high 29 points and Tucker tied his career high with 22 points in a 110-106 loss at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Dec. 31.
Oklahoma City currently holds a three-game winning streak in the series; however, the Suns have won three of the last four matchups in the Valley.
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