'We didn't come out to lose': Down every starter, Jazz keep it close against Suns

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SALT LAKE CITY — About 90 minutes to game time, it seemed like Utah's fate was already sealed.

That's when the injury report came out — and it was pretty bleak:

  • OUT - Bojan Bogdanovic (left finger avulsion fracture)
  • OUT - Joe Ingles (right ankle sprain)
  • OUT - Royce O'Neale (right knee tendonitis)
  • OUT - Mike Conley (right knee injury maintenance)
  • OUT - Rudy Gobert (left calf strain)
  • OUT - Donovan Mitchell (concussion protocol)

For those counting, that's all five regular starters and six of the seven top minute getters. So Utah rolled into Phoenix against the team with the best record in the league with nine available players, most of which had only played sparingly this season. No chance, right?

Not exactly.

It may have ended in a Jazz loss, but a team led by Trent Forrest, Danuel House Jr. and Eric Paschall put on one of the most energy-filled and entertaining performances of the season.

The Jazz even had a lead entering the final quarter. Chris Paul, like he's done so many times before, squashed the feel-good story with a dominant fourth quarter that pushed the Suns to a 115-109 win in Phoenix.

"We didn't come out there expecting to lose," rookie Jared Butler said. "We didn't go out there expecting, 'OK, like we're playing the top team in the West, let us just lay down and get shots up.' We intentionally came out there to win."

Early on, though, it looked like the game would follow the expected script. The Suns jumped out to a 7-0 lead almost immediately and led by double digits for most of the first quarter. The reserve Jazz team, who started a two-way player (Forrest) and one on a 10-day contract (House), unsurprisingly had some breakdowns.

Those slowly were cleaned up and the Jazz kept cutting into the lead. Forrest and Paschall started making strong drives to the basket, and Butler hit some 3-pointers. Utah closed the half on a 21-10 run and trailed by just 2 points at the break.

"Forget the coverage, forget the schemes, you just compete and talk and you can make things work," coach Quin Snyder said. "And that's what our guys did tonight."

Forrest had a career-high 17 points and six rebounds, House added 14 points and seven rebounds and Paschall added 14 of his own.

Butler finished with 13 points and four steals and was 5 of 9 from the 3-point line. He hit one of the 3-pointers right in the face of Paul, who Butler had a poster of hanging in his room growing up. That was a pretty surreal moment.

"That was like, 'Oh my gosh!' — it's just one of those moments in life where you're like, 'Man, dreams can come true.'" Butler said.

It was Paul, though, that ended Utah's upset dreams on Monday.

Through three quarters, the Jazz had done everything perfectly to get the win. They made half their 3s, had only sent the Suns to the free-throw line four times, and forced 13 Phoenix turnovers. That gave them a small 2-point advantage entering the final 12 minutes.

"They took advantage of their opportunity and came out aggressive and confident," said Phoenix's Devin Booker, who had 33 points. "Once they got their confidence, they were just a little bit tougher to stop and they were letting the ball fly."

Once the game entered crunch time, though, it was Paul that proved too difficult to stop. The future Hall-of-Fame point guard scored 15 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Suns to the victory.

Still, Paul had to play 40 minutes to beat a Jazz team without any of its stars. Call it a morale victory, but that did bring some good feelings to a team that's been in a major slum.

"That's a big confidence boost — I feel like for everybody, because we were on the streak where we weren't playing good at all," Forrest said.

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