Frustrated Jazz ready for visit from listless Suns
With two All-Star Game snubs and defeats in two of their last three games, expect the Utah Jazz to be in a foul mood when they get set to play host to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
That would be especially bad news for a Suns team that has dropped 11 consecutive games and just got the James Harden treatment, as the Houston Rockets' superstar torched them for 44 points Monday while shooting 15-of-26 from the field in a 118-110 decision.
The Jazz also received the Harden treatment in their most recent defeat, a 125-98 loss on Saturday. Harden went for 43 points that night, which was effectively a double-whammy for the Jazz, who learned less than 48 hours earlier that neither Donovan Mitchell nor Rudy Gobert were named All-Star Game reserves.
Mitchell will enter Wednesday's matchup against the Suns scoring 22.4 points per game, ninth among NBA guards. Gobert not only scores 15.1 points per game, but he is fifth in the NBA in rebounding (12.8), first in field-goal percentage (65.0), fourth in blocks (2.2) and the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
That duo has helped lead the Jazz (30-24) into the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt with the All-Star break fast approaching.
Utah might be wobbling a bit after their two defeats over the past week, but they have won 10 of their last 13 games and have a promise from Gobert that the chip on his shoulder will be there for some time.
Much has been made about Gobert choking up when discussing his All-Star snub this past weekend, but that was more about describing the disappointment his mom felt over the announcement, and how much support he feels from her.
"Obviously, I carry that," Gobert said of the snub, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. "People know me, I know myself. I'm gonna carry that for a while."
The Suns (11-44) have their own outside issues to deal with during a trying season. They have been prominently mentioned in trade rumors, particularly as a possible team to acquire Lonzo Ball from the Los Angeles Lakers. And then there is the matter of trying to keep their best players healthy.
Deandre Ayton just return from a six-game absence because of a sprained left ankle, while Devin Booker came out of Monday's game late with a tight right hamstring, though he said he is "fine." He has already missed time with a left hamstring issue, as well as a recent bout with back spasms.
As for the trade talk, Booker's strategy has been to embrace it rather than let the swirling scenarios bounce around his head.
"I actually enjoy it," Booker said, according to the Arizona Republic. "I think that's why 1/8the NBA is 3/8 the greatest show on earth. You have so many competitive guys in one league that want to be the best. I think it's to the point now where the players are figuring out you have more power than you thought you had back in the day. They're controlling their future."
The future is best to focus on for the Suns, who are 10 1/2 games worse than any other team in the West and in an ongoing "battle" with the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls for worst record in the league.
Phoenix has not won since an unlikely victory Jan. 12 over the Denver Nuggets, one of the best teams in the Western Conference. The Suns' last road victory came the day after Christmas, in Orlando.
Aside from Booker's most recent injury, forward Dragan Bender (thumb) is day-to-day, while forward T.J. Warren (ankle) is out until the All-Star break. The Jazz have guard Raul Neto (groin) and center Tony Bradley (knee) listed as day-to-day, while guard Dante Exum (ankle) is expected out until the All-Star break.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 5, 2019