Booker scores 25, Suns overwhelm Jazz for 106-95 victory
SALT LAKE CITY - The Phoenix Suns are becoming a dangerous team on both ends of the court.
The Suns beat Utah 106-95 on Dec. 31 for their first 4-1 start since 2009, turning up the pressure on both offense and defense.
Phoenix held Utah to 41.7% shooting from the field and forced 13 turnovers. Offensively, the Suns shot a sizzling 51.5% from 3-point range and made 17 3-pointers overall.
Phoenix never trailed over the final three quarters.
"We played balanced the whole game," guard Devin Booker said.
Booker had 25 points and seven assists. Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder added 16 points apiece for the Suns. Phoenix had six players score in double figures.
Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points for the Jazz. Rudy Gobert had 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Mike Conley chipped in 16 points. The Jazz are 0-2 at home to start the 2020-21 season.
"Teams have been coming out being aggressive and it’s taking us too long to react," Gobert said. "We have all the weapons to counteract that, but tonight it took us too long to adjust again."
Cold shooting from the Jazz allowed the Suns to surge ahead in the second quarter. Utah missed 13 shots in the quarter and shot just 39.5% from the field overall before halftime.
Phoenix used a 7-0 run capped by Chris Paul’s fadeaway jumper to seize a 30-24 lead. The Suns extended their lead to 48-33 late in the second quarter behind a flurry of baskets from Cameron Payne.
"We executed, especially in the first half, defensively how we wanted to guard," Booker said.
Utah whittled a 13-point deficit down to three points early in the third quarter. Conley sparked a 16-6 run with back-to-back pullup 3-pointers. Gobert punctuated it with a running dunk that cut the Suns’ lead to 59-56.
Bridges kept the Jazz at arm’s length with his outside shooting. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers to end Utah’s run and sank another two minutes later to boost Phoenix’s lead to 70-62.
Phoenix scored on three straight possessions to end the quarter and kick-start a 16-2 run. Johnson made three baskets during the run, culminating in a jumper that put the Suns up 91-70 early in the fourth quarter.
"That’s where we hang our hat is on the defensive end," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "We feel like we’re trending in the right direction."
Utah cut a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit to 98-93 on Conley’s 3-pointer with 2:07 left. Mitchell and Conley combined to score on five straight possessions to get the Jazz back into the game, but Utah could draw no closer.
"The biggest thing is just playing through it," Mitchell said. "Teams are going to be aggressive. We played hard but we didn’t play smart."
Suns: Deandre Ayton finished with a team-high nine rebounds. … Paul led the Suns with eight assists. ... Phoenix scored 34 bench points over the final three quarters after the second unit went scoreless in the first quarter.
Jazz: Jordan Clarkson got whistled for a technical foul in the second quarter after dribbling into a referee and shoving him following a turnover. … Bojan Bogdanovic went 0-of-5 from the field. … Utah scored 18 points off 15 turnovers.
Utah has trailed over the final three quarters in both of its home losses. The Jazz have rallied from double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter on each occasion, only to fall short in the closing minutes.
It’s quickly becoming a frustrating trend for Utah, which is allowing teams to take it out of its offense early.
"If we are not playing to our strengths, it is going to be difficult for us," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
Potent outside shooting is quickly becoming a trademark for Bridges.
The third-year forward made four 3-pointers. It is the third time in five games he has made at least four 3-pointers. Bridges is averaging 15.6 points while shooting 50% from 3-point range.
"He’s a guy where we value everything he does," Williams said. "His intentions are great. It’s good to see his work paying off."
Suns: At Denver on Friday.
Jazz: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 10 News app. It is FREE! Download for Apple iOS or Android.