PHOENIX — No, your eyes weren’t deceiving you on Wednesday. The Jazz actually had a full rotation of point guards.
For the first time since Jan. 5, the Jazz had all three of their point guards — Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum, and Raul Neto — healthy for a game. And while all three played limited minutes, it may have been their presence that resulted in Utah being a little pass happy during its 114-97 win over Phoenix at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Jazz assisted on 30 of their 42 made field goals and only nine of those came from the trio of point guards.
“It’s one thing to have healthy guys, but it’s another thing for everybody to trust each other,” Donovan Mitchell said. “Whether it’s shots, with decision making or plays, we all have trust for each other. And I think it really showed in our play tonight.”
Mitchell once again led the way for the Jazz. He scored 16 of his 26 points (8-for-14 shooting) in the second half, including five in a critical 11-0 run late in the game that sealed the contest for the Jazz. Utah outscored the Suns 36-22 in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win.
And wins have been a little hard to come by as of late. The Jazz entered Wednesday’s game losing three of their last four games — two of which were to lottery-bound squads. With the Jazz in the thick of playoff seeding battles, losses like that especially hurt — and had dropped Utah to eighth in the West. Utah (38-29) is now seventh after the victory on Wednesday night.
“It was a big game for us to get back to winning and get back to playing good basketball,” Neto said.
And the Jazz got back to what has made them so good over the last few seasons: playing really good defense.
“We saw more urgency and more focus on that end tonight,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
Utah held Phoenix to 43.9 percent shooting and outrebounded the Suns 52-35. The Jazz were especially good to close the halves. The Suns scored just 16 points in the second quarter and only 22 points in the fourth.
The Jazz also won the battle down low. Rudy Gobert finished with 18 points and 20 rebounds and Derrick Favors had 18 points and seven rebounds.
“I think they way both Rudy and Faves responded to the last couple games,” Snyder said. “Our bigs have been solid all year long. They raised their level tonight. The points in the paint and some of their finishing. It thought they did an excellent job defensively of coming over and impacting shots without fouling.”
And even the bigs were in on the passing — Favors had seven assists on the night himself.
“We moved the ball really well,” Neto said. “Our bigs passing the ball really well. Derrick Favors had seven assists, the bigs were passing the ball to the smalls. It was fun. It was fun because everybody was touching the ball. Everybody was doing something on offense.”
It didn’t hurt that the Jazz got the win, either.