Phoenix Suns target the Utah Jazz in chase for first place

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Gabriel Mayberry-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Gabriel Mayberry-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns are ready to show their level with back-to-back games, Wednesday and Thursday, against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

When the teams with the two best NBA records meet Wednesday night, Deandre Ayton and Rudy Gobert will eat some of the spotlight, as Ayton, the Suns’ 22-year-old former No. 1 overall pick, tries to solve the Defensive Player of the Year favorite.

The Phoenix Suns may have the edge over the Jazz because of Utah’s fairly pedestrian road resume.

Critics including an ESPN analyst recently drew the conclusion that the Jazz weren’t championship-ready. But Utah is a slim two-point favorite in Phoenix.

The Jazz now will be playing in their 20th consecutive game as favorites, and, in addition to three other conference heavyweights, appear to be the Suns’ biggest playoff concern.

The 38-12 Jazz could see their lead trimmed to one game in the loss column, and Utah’s 16-10 road record should give the Suns fans hope.

According to, the Suns are 6-2 against the spread as underdogs.

After escaping Houston with a 133-130 victory, Phoenix holds a six-game winning streak and needed all of Devin Booker’s 36 points — he hit 11 of 20 field-goal attempts including 6-8 from 3-point range.

Utah has won nine of 11, having lost to Dallas most recently.

When these teams met New Year’s Eve, the Suns stopped the Jazz 106-95.

The Phoenix Suns compare well with the Western Conference No. 1 seed Utah Jazz.

Here are a few stats targeted for the Phoenix Suns’ nationally televised home game vs. the Utah Jazz.

Booker is shooting 49.8% and averaging 25.9 points this season and, since the All-Star break, he’s putting up a nice 28.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.

Over his past three games, the All-Star is averaging 37.7 points and should have no real concerns facing Donovan Mitchell. If Booker really attacks Gobert at the rim, that could bring the rare big night for free-throw attempts, too, and prove an advantage for Phoenix.

(That’s IF the officials actually make calls for Booker, of course.)

Over the past 10 games, Jae Crowder is averaging 2.6 made 3-pointers and 11.2 points.

Mitchell leads the Jazz on the season, averaging 25.4 points and grabbing 4.4 rebounds.

Gobert is averaging 12.3 rebounds and 15.5 points per game over the past 10 games for Utah.

Phoenix’s aggressive defense could hurt Utah’s catch-and-shoot guys Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles — along with the rare looks given to Mitchell. The versatile perimeter defense led by Mikal Bridges and Crowder should provide a boost.

The Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz team numbers over the past 10 games reflect their top-two standing in the NBA.

Past 10 games record: Suns 9-1, Jazz 9-1.

Suns: 116.1 points, 43.3 rebounds, 27.4 assists, 8.3 steals and four blocks per game.

Field-goal percentage: 49.4%.

Suns opponents: 106.3 points on 44.3% shooting.

Jazz: 117.4 points, 49.5 rebounds, 23.6 assists, seven steals and 5.8 blocks per game.

Field-goal percentage: 46.9%.

Jazz opponents: 100.9 points on 42.2% shooting.

Devin Booker can't get no respect. dark. Next

With May fast approaching, the Suns need to take advantage of opportunities such as this if they want to contend for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Especially with the Denver Nuggets streaking up the standings and the Los Angeles Clippers waiting in L.A. for the Suns on Thursday night.