The Utah Jazz (21-13) eventually took care of business on New Years Eve by defeating the Phoenix Suns (10-24) by the final score of 91-86. Unfortunately, this game was much closer than it should have been; which perhaps reveals a tendency of the team to play ‘down’ to their competition. Unfortunately #2, starting point guard George Hill would only play in the first quarter of this game and did not return after being savaged by a measured and malicious Alex Len elbow. The impact of which left the Jazz without their veteran point guard — and caused Hill to miss time due to his lacerated lip and his adherence to the NBA’s concussion protocol. Unfortunately #3, this game recap is going up today -- days after the game. Sorry, I was in New Year’s mode for a while.
Somehow this first quarter was nuts. Both teams would finish with 29 points, which is kind of the ‘opposite’ of the pace of play Quin Snyder’s club usually likes to play. Phoenix was winning the control of this game early with their rebounding prowess and ability to force turn overs. On the other side of the court, second year shooter Devin Booker was balling and would net 18 points in the first frame. Wow!
The Jazz had to respond, and looked to do just that by winning both the second and third quarters. Utah looked like they would run away with it in the third, however Phoenix did not give up. They went on a 8-0 run to make what could have been an easy win into something our guys would have to grind it out for. As an aside, I understand the the NBA game is a game of runs. But I just think these runs are a problem of having a somewhat predictable offense when there are injuries. Not having George Hill, Dante Exum, and Alec Burks — three of the more dynamic ball handlers on the team — makes stalling on offense that much more likely to happen.
Eric Bledsoe and Leandro Barbosa were having a game for Phoenix. And the usual suspects (Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert) were for Utah. But it’s obvious that someone would have to step up to put their team over the top. (You know, beyond Len who was trying to disable the Jazz PG spot because he elbowed Hill, and would later on elbow Raul Neto.) Booker started off hot, but would finish with only 20 points. That means the Jazz defense held him to 2 points over the final three quarters.
And as expected, this Jazz team leaned on the defense to get this win. Utah eclipsed Phoenix in the fourth, during a 6:45 stretch the Jazz forced the Suns to miss everything except two shots. Even then the game wasn’t in the bag, as Earl Watson’s club had a chance to tie the game with 5 seconds left to play.
Utah won, eventually. Three wins in a row to end 2016 is better than the opposite. Glad the team got the win. Not crazy about the sluggish home games (what happened to blow outs?), especially not cool with Hill getting injured again on the eve of a road trip.
Hayward finished with 18 and 9, while adding 4 assists and 2 steals. Gobert was a force inside with his 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Rodney Hood was good enough tonight, netting 13, with 3 threes and 4 assists. Joe Ingles continues to be the hero we all openly support going 3/3 from deep.
Today plays five games in seven nights on a trip out East that starts tonight (this afternoon) in Brooklyn.