Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) shoots as Utah Jazz forward Danuel House Jr. (25) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 8, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Devin Booker scored 33 points and the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns overcame a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Utah Jazz 111-105 on Friday night.
Deandre Ayton sealed the victory off a pass from Chris Paul with 18.4 seconds left. Ayton had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Paul had 16 points and 16 assists to help the Suns extend their franchise record with their 64th victory.
“We read the game. They try to take this away? Boom, we hit this guy,” Paul said. “They took Book away and (Ayton) is open. They helped off of Mikal (Bridges) and we hit him. We weren’t surprised.”
Bridges added 18 points, capping a 14-0 Phoenix run in the fourth quarter to tie it at 98. His dunk and three-point play with 46 seconds remaining gave the Suns a 107-102 lead.
“I didn’t think we had a great team spirit in the third,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “Then, for whatever reason, I saw this steadiness in our huddle. We call it the wear-down effect, where if we can just stay with it, trust each other and keep playing the right way, we can live with the results.”
The Jazz didn’t score a field goal – nine straight misses — for almost seven minutes in the fourth quarter.
“We had six assists in the second half,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “The ball stopped moving. We gave up something. When you don’t have efficient possessions offensively, it becomes much more difficult for us to defend.”
Utah has lost 16 games where it held double-digit leads this season. The Suns outscored the Jazz 36-13 in the fourth quarter.
“We knew we had to take it up a notch,” Booker said. “We were aware that they’ve given up some big leads this year.”
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 19 points for Utah. Slowed by Bridges, Donovan Mitchell had 18 points on 7-of-21 shooting. Rudy Gobert finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“We didn’t get stops and they were able to run. We stopped playing the way we were playing earlier,” Gobert said. “We do overthink in the fourth and in clutch time.”
After both teams had rested stars in their previous games, this one looked like a playoff preview with some brilliant execution at times and extraordinary effort.
Showing why these squads rank at the top in offensive efficiency, there were amazing baskets until the Suns suddenly clamped down.
The Suns long ago wrapped up the top seed in the NBA — and showed why they look like the team to beat.
“In hostile situations, it’s us against the world,” Bridges said. “We become tighter together and just get stronger. We’re one out there.”
The Suns finished with a franchise-record 32 road wins and become the first NBA team since 1969-70 New York Knicks to finish with a better road winning percentage than every other team’s home winning percentage.
“We have some villains on this team,” Bridges said. “They love breaking the hearts of the fans (on the road).”
The Jazz are currently in the fifth spot in the Western Conference but could possible fall to sixth on the final night of the season.
Jordan Clarkson beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer to give Utah a 92-75 lead entering the fourth quarter, where the Jazz have been one of weakest finishers among playoff teams and the Suns have been the best.
Carlos Boozer, who was a two-time All-Star with the Jazz, was honored during the third quarter to a standing chorus of Boooos — as was the custom in his 2004-10 Utah career. The Jazz haven’t been back to the Western Conference Finals since Boozer led them there in 2007.
BRIDGES FOR DPOY?
Besides his big shots in the clutch, Bridges helped hold Mitchell to 0-for-6 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“I’m not a politician, nor am I eloquent with pushing people,” Williams said, “but you can’t look at the effort that that young man puts forth every night on that end of the floor and then does what he does on offense.”
Bridges appreciated his coach’s opinion.
“Obviously I want that, but control what you can control so I just keep defending,” Bridges said.
Suns: A pocket of Suns fans chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P!” when Booker shot free throws. … Officials reversed a foul call on Danuel House guarding Booker on a jumper in the third quarter, ruling Booker created the contact with a leg kick. … JaVale McGee got a technical in the fourth period.
Jazz: Grammy award winner Olivia Rodrigo, who filmed the High School Musical and her “Drivers License” music video in Utah, sat courtside in a Jazz jersey. … Mitchell led a rousing ovation for House after a number of hustle plays in the third quarter. … The Jazz had 33 free throws attempts to the Suns’ 15 attempts from the line.
Suns: At Sacramento on Sunday.
Jazz: At Portland on Sunday.