SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz got defensive — literally — and rolled past the Phoenix Suns for their 8th straight win, 116-99.
Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points and Rudy Gobert had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Utah Jazz to its 20th win in their last 22 games.
Joe Ingles scored 17 points, including four 3-pointers, and Jae Crowder added 12 for the Jazz, who had 12 steals and 8 blocked shots.
T.J. Warren paced Phoenix with 19 points while Josh Jackson had 17 and Devin Booker had 12. The Suns have lost seven in a row.
Ricky Rubio had 12 points and 11 assists, and Dante Exum made his first appearance of the season for the Jazz and finished with 10 points.
With 1:16 in the first quarter, Exum entered to a loud ovation after a long rehabilitation from shoulder surgery in October.
Because of Gobert’s presence, the Suns took a number of twisting high-arcing floaters and often cut short drives to the baskets. The Suns also committed 22 turnovers while struggling to get clean looks.
The Suns’ body language showed frustration and it boiled over as the Jazz took firm control of the game.
With Utah leading 69-50 in the third quarter, Rubio was headed full speed on a fast break when Jared Dudley body-blocked him to the floor, starting a scrum in front of the Suns bench. Dudley got a flagrant 2 foul and was ejected, along with Marquese Chriss for pushing Rubio back down after Dudley’s shove. Ingles and Mitchell were assessed technical fouls.
Rubio did not want to talk about the incident after the game, but the Jazz team is tired of this happening.
“It’s a problem,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “It just keeps happening. Our point guard has been leveled, knocked to the ground, two times in one possession tonight. Guys are going to have each others backs, and where that goes when it gets like that, you never know what’s going to happen.
“Two cheap shots, for no reason,” added Mitchell. “I think it’s good we had his back, but that’s just cheapiness.”
Rubio also received a hard shove to the floor against Minnesota a couple weeks ago.
Spurred by Mitchell’s two dunks and a 3-pointer in the final two minutes, the Jazz opened a 56-43 lead at halftime after trailing early in the second quarter.
As for Exum, he played 14 minutes and finished with 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. He also bounced back up after taking a hard fall at the end of the third quarter.
“I feel good,” Exum said. “Just to move past the injury and kind of take a step forward from where it happened until now, it just worked out to play the same team, and it was good to get the win.”
The Jazz (39-30) move up to the 7th seed in the Western Conference headed into Saturday’s home game against Sacramento.