In what was perhaps one of the ugliest games ever played (legitimately), the Utah Jazz lost a “close one” to the Phoenix Suns in their preseason home opener.
If you had any doubt about whether or not it was still the preseason, the Utah Jazz were party to one of the preseason-est basketball games you’ll ever see on Wednesday night. In what was a tale of two halves (and a whole lot of fouls), the Jazz were burned by the Phoenix Suns in their home opener, losing 111-110 at Vivint Arena.
The situation could only be described as a dumpster fire.
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Early in the contest, I tweeted this in what felt like an obvious understatement–
I picked the Jazz to cover 4.5 — it seems they'll do that. #PHXatUTA
The Jazz were up by 30 at the time. What ensued was sheer madness.
If you checked out after the first half, you probably wouldn’t believe the final score if you saw it. After outscoring the Suns by 21 in the first quarter and outplaying Earl Watson’s club in every phase of the game, Utah led 58-40 at the midway point.
However, Jazz coach Quin Snyder held starters George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw out in the second half and would eventually empty the bench. Only Jeff Withey and Raul Neto didn’t see the court and those that did play had a rough go of things.
With the back-end of the bench struggling to find cohesion and the referees obliterating any semblance of flow with their whistles (79 fouls were called in total), the Jazz surrendered the lead and the game.
Despite the inability of Marcus Paige, Chris Johnson, Quincy Ford, Eric Dawson and Joel Bolomboy to mesh on the floor, the Jazz had managed a double-digit lead in the game’s waning moments. However, the Suns went on a 15-3 run over the course of the final 1:39, punctuated by this Archie Goodwin jam to give Phoenix their first lead in the closing seconds–
Despite the insanity of it all, this was a game that yielded a lot of positives for the Jazz. The team’s regulars (sans the injured Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks) played as well as a collective as they had at any point so far in the preseason to build the big early lead.
Gobert continued his strong play, particularly on the offensive end. The Stifle Tower finished with 17 points in just 19 minutes and hit on 11-of-15 from the free throw line. If he can continue to get to the line and make free throws like this during the regular season, the Jazz are going to be a tough lot to beat.
The same could be said for Exum, who had his best preseason effort to date in the game. Starting in place of Hood, Exum finished with a team-high 18 points and three assists in 27 minutes. He was also aggressive in driving to the basket and drawing fouls, making 8-of-9 from the line.