PHOENIX (ABC4 Sports) – Down all five starters, and six players overall, the Utah Jazz seemingly had no chance against the top team in the NBA.
But led by a group of young players with fresh legs, the Jazz almost pulled off its biggest upset of the year.
Seven Jazz players scored in double figures, led by Jordan Clarkson with 22, as Utah came up short against the Phoenix Suns Monday night, 115-109.
Devin Booker scored 33 points, Paul had 15 of his a season-high 27 points in the fourth quarter, and the Suns rallied for their seventh straight win.
Utah was without six of its top nine leading scorers, including Donovan Mitchell (concussion), Rudy Gobert (left calf strain), Bojan Bogdanovic (left finger fracture), Joe Ingles (right ankle sprain), Mike Conley (right knee injury maintenance) and Royce O’Neale (right knee tendinitis).
Trent Forrest had a career high 17 points, while rookie Jared Butler added 13 points and four steals. The Jazz had a season-high 11 steals overall.
“We didn’t come out there expecting to lose,” Butler said. “We didn’t come out there expecting just because we were playing the top team in the West to lay down. We intentionally came out there to win.”
Paul just missed a triple-double with 14 assists and nine rebounds. The Suns improved their NBA-best record to 37-9, matching the 2006-07 team for the best start in franchise history.
The gritty Jazz trailed by 13 in the first half but jumped ahead 87-85 by the end of the third quarter. Utah pushed its lead to 95-91 early in the fourth but the Suns responded with a 14-2 run to take control.
“We had a good start to the game and then we got a little comfortable,” Booker said. “Those guys were ready to play. They took advantage of their opportunity, came out aggressive and confident. Once they got confidence, they were a little tougher to stop.”
Paul was the main catalyst for Phoenix’s final push, dominating the fourth quarter when Booker cooled off following a hot start. The 11-time All-Star made his first five shots of the period, including two 3-pointers. Suns coach Monty Williams doesn’t like to give Paul such heavy minutes in the regular season, but sometimes it’s hard to take him off the court.
“We needed it tonight to get the win,” Williams said.
Utah lost for the eight times in 10 games.
Clarkson made three straight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that made things interesting into the final minute.
“Collectively, we played hard,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “That’s a credit to our guys because the team we played plays hard. That’s why it was such a competitive game. I think what Chris (Paul) did in the fourth quarter, he’s unique, obviously.”
The Suns scored the first seven points and took a 31-21 lead into the second quarter. Booker scored 17 points in the first, making 8 of 13 shots with four rebounds and two assists.
The Jazz and Suns will play again Wednesday night at Vivint Arena. Tip-off is set for 8:00 p.m.