The Utah Jazz face the Phoenix Suns one last time. The last meeting between these two teams featured a bizarre ending for a 30+ point blowout with the Phoenix Suns fouling for extra possessions and the Jazz intentionally fouling back to prevent Devin Booker from eclipsing 60 points. Tonight may very well be Booker’s last chance of the season to score meaningless points as his team trudges toward yet another failure of a season and another high lottery pick.
The Utah Jazz will be down quite a few players to injury so this game could be unnecessarily close. Utah is without Derrick Favors, Kyle Korver, Dante Exum, and Tony Bradley. Jae Crowder is probable but he’s nursing a sore quad. While this game is going on, many Jazz fans may find themselves scoreboard watching the rest of the Western Conference for possible seeding implications. The Jazz, however, are focused on finishing the season strong and getting healthy.
When: Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2019, 8:00 PM MT
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena • Phoenix, AZ
TV: AT&T Sports Net - Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
Jae Crowder — Right Quad Contusion — Probable (per Eric Walden)
Derrick Favors — Back Spasms — OUT (per Eric Walden)
Kyle Korver — Right Knee Soreness — OUT (per Eric Walden)
Dante Exum — Right Knee — OUT indefinitely
DeAndre Ayton — Ankle — OUT (per Kellan Olson)
Tyler Johnson — Knee — OUT (per Kellan Olson)
T.J. Warren — Ankle — OUT (per Kellan Olson)
Kelly Oubre, Jr. — Thumb Surgery — OUT indefinitely
Rudy Gobert vs whichever poor sap has to face him
With Ayton sidelined, Gobert’s likeliest matchups are Dragan Bender and Richaun Holmes. Not exactly world-beaters at the center position. Rudy should be able to dominate his matchup and control the paint on both ends of the court. In the 3 previous matchups, Gobert averaged 20.3 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 1.3 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game on 71.4% from the field. Expect him to be flirting with a 20/20 game by the end of the 3rd quarter on his way to a dominating performance.
Donovan Mitchell vs Devin Booker
Booker has 1 career win against the Jazz in 13 tries (a 1-12 record ... not ideal). Phoenix has a losing record in games where Booker scores 70+ points, 60+ points, 50+ points, 40+ points, 30+ points ... and so on. Booker is great at filling up box score columns, but the column that matters most, the Win/Loss column, has been a different story. A lot of that is on a front office that has put together a terrible roster, but Booker’s poor defense is definitely part of the problem as well.
Despite picking up the loss last time around, there were a few individual possessions where Devin got the better of Donovan. Expect Mitchell to come out firing and put together a statement game against a player that many casual fans see as a “better” player despite obvious defensive flaws. Just dig into twitter a bit if you think casual fans don’t view Booker as a superior player. Yikes.
Defense vs ... Not Defense
Utah’s defense is elite and has consistently been among the league’s best over the past few years. Having the reigning Defensive Player of the Year patrolling the paint is a big part of that, but Utah’s roster construction has given them a platoon of pesky perimeter players to punish opposing ball handlers for 48 minutes.
Meanwhile, Phoenix has the 2nd-worst defensive rating in the NBA this season, ahead of only the tanking Cleveland Cavaliers.
This has “trap game” written all over it - Utah is on a hot streak, winning 10 of their last 11 games including 5 straight, the game is on the road, playoffs are just around the corner, a lot of the Suns key players are out, Phoenix has been terrible all season and has lost 8 of their last 10 games, including a 6-game losing streak before beating the awful Cavs...
That said, I expect Utah to come out engaged early to build a big first-half lead. They know what’s at stake, they know seeding is critical, and they’ve had games in the past where they haven’t taken a “bad” team seriously ... and it’s cost them. That won’t happen again.
Donovan and Rudy lead the Jazz to a huge lead and sit most of the 4th quarter. Devin Booker scores 15 points in garbage time to pad his stats. Utah wins by 15.