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Utah Jazz vs. Phoenix Suns Game Preview

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Game 68: Suns (18-49) @ Jazz (32-35)
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
Time: 7:00 p.m. (MT)
TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: 1280 AM // 97.5 FM

"Remember last year when we were in college?" "Nope!" "Me neither!"
"Remember last year when we were in college?" "Nope!" "Me neither!"
Elsa/Getty Images

Tonight the Utah Jazz look to extend their winning streak to four games -- which would be the second longest win streak of the 2015-2016 season. In their way tonight will be the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have had a tough year with injuries, like the Jazz, but unlike the Jazz they did not remain 'chill' nor did they stick with the program. They fired head coach Jeff Hornacek and replaced him with Earl Watson. Both are beloved in Utah, but tonight Earl is the enemy. He's worth fearing though has he seems to be turning around this Suns' mess. During a difficult stretch Phoenix had lost 28 of 30 games. Right now they've won four of their last 10, an even more impressive, are 3-3 in their last six games. The wins were something to celebrate as they beat the Orlando Magic 102-84, the Memphis Grizzlies 109-100, and the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-104! The losses were just as ugly, getting pounded by the New York Knicks 128-97, the Denver Nuggets 116-98, and the Golden State Warriors 123-116. I wouldn't take much from the blowout losses, but know not to overlook them because they are playing better.

One of the things that has been a catalyst has been putting rookie Devin Booker in the starting lineup. He is playing really well off of Brandon Knight, who is back from injury. Furthermore, Watson is going big by starting Alex Len and Tyson Chandler next to one another. This is a new look Suns team that is ready to play on any night. Sure, they still have season ending injuries to Eric Bledsoe and T.J. Warren to hamper them, but they are determined to make these last 15 games of 2015-2016 count for more than just the academic reasons.

2015 2016 GM 68 PHX at UTA - Suns Player Stats

The Jazz will also have to by wary of all their three point shooters and quick pace of play -- for the season they are the 5th fastest team in the league. To their downfall, they are 28th in ORTG and 28th in DRTG which causes them to give up 108.0 points per game, on average (29th). They force turn overs, hit their offensive glass, and get to the line -- where they actually go out there and make their freebies. Phoenix shouldn't be overlooked.

Especially not with the news that Gordon Hayward is going to sit this one out, and join Dante Exum and Alec Burks as observers this year. This means more of the burden will be on Shelvin Mack and Rodney Hood -- and it would be nice to see them both continue to have highly effective games. I don't think they have anyone who can really stop Derrick Favors in the paint, and if they want to go big that only helps Quin Snyder out as he can then play more Rudy Gobert.

2015 2016 GM 68 PHX at UTA - Jazz Player Stats

There isn't much of a contrast to styles besides pace of play. I like the team's chances tonight even without three of their four best perimeter players. If Phoenix goes guard-heavy that means the Jazz will be forced to dig deep. Joe Ingles is going to get the start and Chris Johnson has limited utility. We may see more double point guard action with Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto, and Trey Burke all seeing some time in tandem. I'm not crazy about it, but it's not like you can mess things up by playing Trey Lyles at the three or anything . . .

Anyway, I hope the Jazz win. But that's only going to happen if they don't get too cocky. The Suns are better than they've been earlier on this season. Yes, the Jazz are 2-0 against the Suns -- but 3-0 looks better than 2-1. Don't make it 2-1. Take them for real.