The Utah Jazz were right there. They had nearly erased a 21-point first-quarter deficit and crawled to within two points of the Phoenix Suns with three minutes to play Wednesday night.
But less than two minutes later, the game was once again out of reach and the Suns had built up a seven-point lead.
Ultimately, the Suns would would win, 105-97, and leave Vivint Arena having won eight consecutive games. What went wrong in those two minutes?
The Suns called a timeout after a Hassan Whiteside dunk brought the Jazz to within two points, with the Suns on top 94-92. Out of the timeout, the Jazz played really good defense, which led to Jalen Smith taking a mid-range jumper. That’s great.
But then the Jazz allowed Mikal Bridges to come away with an offensive rebound.
The Jazz are in good position when the shot goes up. There’s not a single Suns player in the paint. But Bojan Bogdanovic gets caught ball-watching rather than making sure he’s boxing out Bridges.
Devin Booker eventually ends up with the ball in his hands and drives to the middle of the floor and hits a tough, contested shot. The Jazz defended the Booker shot well, but Booker is known to hit tough shots and he’d been doing it all night against the Jazz.
That’s not the point, though. Booker should have never had the chance to get that shot off because the Jazz shouldn’t have allowed that offensive board. Suns lead, 96-92.
The Jazz score again on the ensuing offensive possession, but then this play happens.
Mike Conley follows Chris Paul around to the right side and then gets caught going the other direction on a Smith screen. Conley and Whiteside seem to do a pretty good job of switching the play and Conley has alright position on Smith. But Whiteside kind of gets caught in no-man’s-land against Paul.
The worry that Paul could lob to Smith is a legitimate concern, but Whiteside has to make a decision. It is the fourth quarter and Paul has the ball. Instead of just showing and then putting his hand down, Whiteside should have contested to the full extent. It’s not horrible, but it’s not great. Suns lead, 98-94.
The Jazz get the ball and Conley is about to score and maybe even get an and-one opportunity, but Whiteside commits an obvious offensive foul.
Whiteside might be getting in position to screen thinking that Conley is going to come in his direction, but he clearly pushes Smith, and pushes him hard enough that Bogdanovic falls over.
“Dude just jumped out in front of me and fell over,” Whiteside said. “That call was (expletive). I stand on that.”
Whiteside said as much to the officials and they gave him a technical foul.
“Hassan’s got to keep self-control,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “It’s unfortunate.”
Booker hits the technical foul free throw, then hits another jumper on the ensuing play. Suns lead, 101-94.
From that point on, the Jazz had to foul to try and play the free-throw numbers, but the game was already over.
Snyder made it a point to say that the Jazz allowed Booker to score 21 points in the first quarter and that the Jazz were down 21 points in the first quarter. Those early mistakes meant they were forced to mount a comeback throughout the entirety of the game and never should have been in that position.
But when the Jazz had a chance, after they’d clawed back into the game, it was a couple of small errors that let them down in the end.