PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns took advantage of playing with a lead for most of the game against the Utah Jazz.
Jared Dudley had a season-high 22 points and the Suns had a lead most of the way in a 99-84 victory over the Jazz 99-84 on Friday.
“It’s so much easier when you’re playing downhill rather than uphill,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said.
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The Suns had trailed by double digits in all but one of their prior 11 home games and in 19 of 23 overall, but that wasn’t an issue against Utah.
After falling behind early, the Suns took a 20-18 lead on a reverse layup by Dudley with 4:26 left in the first quarter and never looked back.
“We got a lot of turnovers and long rebounds,” Dudley said. “When you are not taking the ball from out of bounds you can run a little bit more. I thought we had more of an aggressive mindset.”
Gentry has talked before recent games of the Suns’ need to move the ball, given the significantly higher percentage his team shoots when there are multiple passes before a shot.
In the first half against the Jazz, Phoenix had 16 assists on 22 baskets and finished the game with 23 assists on 38.
“That tells me we were moving the basketball and doing the right thing,” Gentry said. “We are not playing isolation.”
Goran Dragic added 17 points and five assists for the Suns, who have won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 21-23. Phoenix has yet to win three straight this season.
Al Jefferson, who had 27 points and 14 rebounds in the teams’ first meeting, was held to 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz, who had their four-game winning streak snapped.
“We had opportunities to come back but we could just never get over the hump because they had their confidence going,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “They ran hard and cut hard and ran harder than we did.”
Paul Millsap added 12 points for Utah, which was held below 90 points for just the second time in its past 13 games.
The Jazz cut a 12-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to seven at 79-72 on Derrick Favors’ 8-foot jumper with 10:23 remaining.
But Utah did not hit another shot from the field over the next 2:21 and was outscored 18-4 during that stretch.
“I don’t think their defense is that great, to be honest with you,” Millsap said. “I feel like we didn’t execute as well as we’re supposed to. We had some open looks that didn’t go down and our offense was just real stagnant.”
Phoenix scored a season-best 34 first-quarter points and took a 12-point lead after the first and stretched its lead to as many as 20 at 56-36 on a layup by Dudley with 3:34 left in the first half.
But the momentum disappeared over the next several minutes. Utah held Phoenix without a field goal over the remainder of the first half and cut the lead to 56-42 at halftime.
Four different Jazz players scored during a 7-1 run over the middle three minutes of the third quarter, capped by a driving layup by Millsap to pull Utah within 65-61.
“We got a little disorganized and had a couple of bad possessions, but then we got right back into it and did a good job,” Gentry said.
Dudley hit a 3-pointer with 3:48 to go in the third quarter to put the Suns back in front by seven and Phoenix led 77-65 after three.
After Favors brought the Jazz back within seven, the Suns took control. Favors was called for a technical foul, Corbin was also whistled for a technical less than a minute later, and P.J. Tucker made a key steal and subsequent layup as Phoenix took an 85-72 lead.
“We play well against good teams and we demonstrated this in the last two games,” Dragic said. “If we can defend well and rebound then we can run.”
NOTES: Utah entered the game sixth in the NBA in fast-break scoring, but was outscored 19-7. Phoenix also led 48-42 in points in the paint. … The Jazz have not won consecutive games against the Suns since a three-game winning streak from March 2009 to March 2010. … Utah fell to 4-10 on the road.