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Josh Jackson’s strong performance not enough for Suns to win on road

Phoenix Suns' Josh Jackson (20) attempts a layup as Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors, right, defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)

Even on a night in which the Phoenix Suns get one of their players’ best performances of the season, it’s hard to win without the injured Devin Booker, De’Anthony Melton and T.J. Warren.

It’s possible — but hard.

Josh Jackson had what might of been his best outing as a Sun this season. He had 27 points, four rebounds, seven assists and five steals, but the Suns fell to the Jazz 116-88.

Jackson’s 27 on Wednesday night made it three straight games Jackson has scored at least 25 points in.

He was attacking the rim and finishing through contact.

He got to the line well, making eight of his 10 attempts there and was 8-of-12 from the field on his two-pointers.

As they have from time to time while down key players, the Suns continued to fight and find just enough offense to be in the game. In addition to 27 from Jackson, Kelly Oubre Jr. had 16 off the bench and Deandre Ayton added 20 points.

While the Jazz were in control of the game throughout, the Suns were only down six points at the end of the first quarter, 10 at halftime and eight at the end of the third quarter.

But as they have all season, the Suns couldn’t avoid giving up easy baskets to their opponent and that makes it extremely difficult to come back on the road.

As soon as the Suns would get the deficit back to within five, six or eight, the Jazz would go on a quick run, like they did to start the fourth quarter.

That quickly ballooned up to a 17-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter and Utah pulled away from there.

Following a 7-for-25 shooting performance from 3-point range in a loss to the Rockets on Monday, the Suns shot 3-of-17 from deep in Utah.

The Jazz shot 50 percent as a team and had seven players score in double figures.

Phoenix has now lost 12 straight and 19 of its last 21 games.

JOHNSON’S ARRIVAL

With the arrival of newly acquired guard Tyler Johnson on Thursday according to The Athletic’s Gina Mizell, all eyes will be on how he fits into the Suns’ point guard rotation on Friday at home against the Golden State Warriors.

With Melton continuing to be out due to a right ankle sprain, Okobo got the start Wednesday while two-way point guard Jawun Evans also got spot minutes. He played 11 off the bench and had two points, two rebounds and an assist.

Jamal Crawford is the name to watch with Johnson’s emergence. Crawford has been used to run the offense when Booker rests while playing with Booker when the two-guard returns from the bench. That’s the type of role the combo guard Johnson figures to play, whether it’s off the bench or starting in favor of Melton, who isn’t expected back from injury until after the All-Star break.

Crawford didn’t score and had four assists in 10 minutes.

Due to Okobo’s inconsistent play, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Johnson starting Friday if he can pick up the offense quickly enough.

There are also some occasional minutes at two guard available for Johnson should head coach Igor Kokoskov elect to play him there. Behind Booker, the Suns have not played a traditional guard and instead one of their wings. With limited bodies on Wednesday, Troy Daniels played 14 minutes in a backup role.

For more on Johnson and coverage of the 1 p.m. trade deadline Thursday, tune in to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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