Phoenix Suns rock short-handed Utah Jazz, own NBA top record
No Donovan Mitchell.
No Mike Conley.
No way Utah had a chance in Phoenix, especially with the way the Suns played Friday night before 6,065 fans at Phoenix Suns Arena in a showdown of the NBA's top two teams.
Leading by as many as 26 points in the second half, Phoenix completed its series sweep of the Jazz, 121-100, and tied them atop the Western Conference standings.
"It's a tough game to play in emotionally when you're ramped up to play against the best team in the league and they sit a few guys," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "Sometimes you can have an emotional letdown. We took care of business tonight."
With the tiebreaker, the Suns (45-18) have the top seed in the conference, thus essentially own the NBA's top record.
No one saw that coming, especially before this shortened, but compact 72-game regular season began last December.
"It's hard to put it into words right after the game, but you feel good about the way you're playing," Williams said. "The record and now you want to maintain what we're doing and increase it. Obviously, it's great for the city of Phoenix, great for our fans. It's great for the players, but I can't dwell on that. I love the mindset of how can we get better. How can we continue to play the way we've been playing for the rest of the season and going into the playoffs with the consistency in all levels of our program. All levels of the game, but make no mistake about it, I don't take it for granted."
Devin Booker scored a game-high 31 points as he left two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, stumbling backwards before hitting a stepback jumper in front of the Phoenix bench to ignite the crowd in the second half and have Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton nearly mob him as he ran back down the court.
"That's just having fun with it, man," Booker said. "This group is so supportive from top to bottom. I've played in many different situations with different players and if you look around the league at some teams, not everybody has a vibe like this or energy like this throughout. I always say it's a great environment to get better in."
Bridges contributed 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting (4-of-5 from 3) while Chris Paul went for 12 points and nine assists.
"Felt good, just being aggressive," Bridges said. "Just being confident is the biggest thing. Just letting the game come to me as well. Not forcing shots."
Ayton posted 11 points and nine rebounds while Cameron Payne added 11 off the bench as the Suns played a fourth consecutive game without Jae Crowder (ankle).
"Nobody is complacent," Booker said. "I don't think we're slowing down. We can only get better with more experience."
The Jazz (45-18) were even more shorthanded with their All-Star backcourt of Mitchell (ankle) and Conley (hamstring) sidelined as they've lost three of their last four games.
The Suns received an injury scare as Ayton re-aggravated his left shoulder in the first quarter and Booker hurt his right shin late in the first half.
Ayton, who initially took a hit on it in a collision with James Johnson in a January game at Dallas and re-aggravated it April 19 at Milwaukee during Phoenix's five-game road trip out East, tweaked the shoulder again, but checked back in late that quarter.
"I'm mindful of the bumps and bruises, but we have a tough group," Williams said. "Our guys, they work really hard so they can play through those bumps and bruises and the soreness of the season, but they're tough-minded in a lot of ways and they don't get enough credit for that. That's what it's going to take. Nobody is going to be fresh in May, June and July. You're going to have to will yourself through some tough games and video sessions and all that while the rest of the league is not playing."
Booker hurt his shin trying to defend Joe Ingles, who was looking to take a last-second heave to end the half.
The two-time All-Star walked into the locker room with a slight limp. Booker came back out right before the second half with a wrap on the shin as well on his left knee he sprained against Golden State before the All-Star break, but he started the second half on the floor and hit his first shot to open the third quarter.
"Just shin to shin, bad play by me by running into him," Booker said. "He's OK, I'm OK."
Phoenix will begin a three-game road trip Sunday at Oklahoma City. The Suns blasted the Thunder in their second matchup, 140-103, April 2 after losing their first meeting, 102-97, back in January as Booker was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
The Suns were 8-8 at the time.
They have gone 37-10 since and risen to the top of the NBA.
No one saw that coming, either.
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at email@example.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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