PHOENIX — The Utah Jazz, led by a combined 48 points from Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson, beat the Phoenix Suns 118-114 on Sunday at Footprint Center. The Jazz improved to 38-22 on the season and have won two in a row, since the All-Star break.
- This was easily one of Jordan Clarkson’s best games of the season. It’s always a good sign when with each mistake a player gets better and makes corrections in-game. As the game progressed, Clarkson was picking apart the Suns defense and making great reads on when to drive, when to kick out to shooters, when to shoot and when to change the pace of a possession. There is really no such thing as a perfect game, and Clarkson, along with everyone else, was not without mistakes. But, Clarkson minimized his missteps when the game mattered and on defense he was holding good position, getting into passing lanes and making guys work for their shots. He finished the night with 22 points, three assists, three rebounds, and two steals.
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- One of the things that was immediately going to be missed when Joe Ingles was injured for the rest of the season and then traded was his sort of slow and deliberate way he operated in the pick-and-roll, often leading to a pass fake and an easy bucket. What’s developed even more in the last few weeks, though, has been the emergence of Bojan Bogdanovic as a person who can replicate some of those moves pretty regularly and really effectively. Since joining the Jazz Bogdanovic has been a reliable shooter and good in clutch situations and has improved his post-up game, been even better at reading defenses and now he’s adding some nifty pick-and-roll tricks to his game and that should not be overlooked. Every tiny addition to his game makes him even more consistent and valuable for the Jazz.
- Danuel House Jr. was making Devin Booker work extremely hard for every single tiny thing he had. House was picking Booker up full court and forcing him into second, third and fourth options rather than allowing him to get to the first action in any one set. House is really more impressive on defense than I originally thought. His lateral quickness and his ability to get back to the floor after contests and closeouts is really impressive, especially for his height (6-foot-6). You could probably look at Booker finishing the game with 30 points and think that the Jazz didn’t do a very good job, but the truth is that when House was not guarding him, Booker had an easier time and also Booker is going to get his. Booker is going to score a lot and hit a lot of tough buckets. But making him work as hard as House did is incredibly valuable.
- You’d like to think that the Jazz go into a game thinking that they want to limit a team from the 3-point line and live with tough mid-range shots. But, especially in the first half and parts of the third quarter, the Suns were getting pretty open looks from deep. Even more so, the Suns are one of the teams in the NBA that will absolutely destroy you from midrange. Booker, Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and honestly just about everyone else can hit tough short jumpers and that doesn’t even include the injured Chris Paul, who is one of the best at punishing teams from midrange. So, if you’re going to commit to cutting them off from 3, you really have to do that and the Jazz gave up way too much open stuff early on.
- Jazz fans are pretty spoiled, having watched a guy like Rudy Gobert on a regular basis over the last few years, because what Gobert is able to do in the pick-and-roll on the offensive end is really impressive. Timing is a really difficult thing and because Gobert is so good at it, it just makes guys like Hassan Whiteside look a lot worse. That’s not to say that Whiteside had a bad game, because he didn’t, he actually had some really good minutes. You’re just not going to get the same perfectly timed rolls and blocking that you get from Gobert. Best probably not to compare.
- It’s hard not to imagine what a seven-game series between these two teams would be like because there’s a high likelihood that you’ll have to get through the Suns to move on in the playoffs. This Suns team is very good and they weren’t even at their best on Sunday. Their biggest advantage against the Jazz is their length and if this is the playoffs it would be a lot tougher for the Jazz to break that down.
- Donovan Mitchell had a magnificent game and was really good in a lot of situations. He pulled off a pretty amazing chase down block in the first half but on that play he came down a little weird and it seemed to be bothering him for the rest of the night.