SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – With just seven games left in the season, the Utah Jazz playoff hopes are dwindling with every loss.
Devin Booker scored 24 points and Phoenix reserves sparked the decisive run for the Suns in a 117-103 win over the fading Utah Jazz on Monday night.
The Jazz (35-40) have lost four in a row and are two games out of the final spot in the play-in tournament.
Lauri Markkanen returned from a two-game absence from a hand injury and scored 25 points for Utah, but shot 6 of 22 from the field.
“Rough shooting night,” Markkanen said. “I thought I was getting good looks. Didn’t fall tonight.”
Walker Kessler had 18 points and eight rebounds and matched a career high with seven blocks.
“We could not throw the ball in the ocean for long stretches of time,” Utah coach Will Hardy said. “That can wear on you as a team.”
Utah made just 9 of 36 three-point attempts, and shot 44.2 percent from the field overall.
Talen Horton-Tucker had 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Kelly Olynyk finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Deandre Ayton had 14 points after missing four games with a bruised hip. But a trio off the bench was pivotal for Phoenix: Terrence Ross had 13 points, Cameron Payne added 12 and Bismack Biyombo scored 11. They helped the Suns to a 57-25 advantage in bench points.
“The bench is starting to come together,” Ross said. “We are getting a better rhythm and groove, and when we come into the game we’re bringing a different level of energy.”
The Suns (40-35) had lost four in a row on the road. But with this victory they sit more securely in the fourth spot in the Western Conference playoff race — which would give them home-court advantage in the first round.
To get injured star Kevin Durant in a midseason trade, the Suns sacrificed some of their depth and have struggled at times — especially on defense — when their starters sit. But this game was different against the undermanned Jazz.
“If we’re going to get to where we want, it’s going to be different people every night,” star guard Chris Paul said. “We need that confidence going into the playoffs.”
Phoenix went on a 17-2 run bridging the third and fourth quarters, primarily with its backups on the court. The Jazz led 81-78 before Payne and Ross combined for 11 points, and Payne capped the surge with a driving layup with 8:59 remaining to make it 95-83.
Simone Fontecchio, who has started the last three games, was out with a sore toe. Jordan Clarkson (thumb) and Collin Sexton (hamstring), two of Utah’s top three scorers, have missed the past 10 games.
The Jazz next begin a three-game road trip Wednesday night at San Antonio.