THE FACTS: The Utah Jazz continued their postseason push on Wednesday night by doing something they hadn't in more than a month: winning back-to-back games.
Al Jefferson and Gordon Hayward each had 25 points as the Jazz defeated the Phoenix Suns 103-88. Utah got back to .500 (36-36) with the victory and it's the first time it has won back-to-back games since Feb. 13-19. The Jazz remained one game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth place in the Western Conference.
Mo Williams had 10 assists to go along with eight points, and Derrick Favors had 13 rebounds to go along with nine points for Utah.
The Suns, playing without leading scorer and starting point guard Goran Dragic, hung with the Jazz for the first three quarters. Wesley Johnson scored a season-high 22 points, and Kendall Marshall, playing in place of Dragic, dished a career-high 13 assists.
QUOTABLE: "I thought we relaxed a little too much. Got some offensive rebounds for kick-out 3s, some easy buckets in transition, but in the start of the third I thought we did a good job of locking down defensively and really making them make tough shots and then we did a good job executing our offense on the other end."
-- Jazz forward Hayward on how they put the Suns away
THE STAT: With Marcin Gortat out and Jermaine O'Neal limited to 16 minutes of playing time because of a calf strain, the Jazz destroyed the undermanned Suns near the basket. Utah recorded 56 points in the paint, and shot 51.8 percent thanks to having so many close looks at the hoop. Phoenix, by comparison, had just 32 points in the paint.
TURNING POINT: The Jazz opened the fourth quarter with some urgency and finally put the short-handed Suns away. Utah had a 17-2 run to start the fourth, stretching what was a four-point lead to a 92-73 advantage. The Jazz scored the fourth quarter's first 10 points with Jefferson doing most of the damage. He started the spurt with a layup, converted a three-point play and had a jumper. Alec Burks added a 3-pointer off of an assist from Hayward, Favors contributed a slam dunk and Mo Williams had a three-point play of his own during the game-clinching run.
HOT: The Jazz scored on their first six possessions and made their first six shots. They went on to score a season-high 34 first-quarter points. Randy Foye, who missed shootaround because of "gastric distress," continued his sizzling shooting. He shot 5-for-6, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range, and scored 12 points. Foye is 18-for-29, including 10-for-17 from 3-point range, in his last four games. Utah's Paul Millsap shot 6-for-9 and scored 12 points. Phoenix's backup point guards fared well in their extended playing time. Marshall didn't shoot well (2-for-7) but efficiently ran the offense until getting tired near the end of the game while playing a career-high 34 minutes. Diante Garrett shot 4-for-5 and had eight points while spelling Marshall.
NOT: Luis Scola had 20 points and got off to a fast start against the Jazz. Scola, however, fizzled in the second half, shooting 1-for-9. O'Neal was hobbled by his calf strain, and struggled while shooting 1-for-7. For the Jazz, Marvin Williams and Burks each shot 2-for-6.
QUOTABLE II: "(The Jazz) sped the game up. When they went inside, our rotations were out of whack."
-- Suns guard Johnson
GOOD MOVE: The Jazz were mostly brilliant on offense against Phoenix, but what really changed the game's momentum was their increased pressure and intensity on defense in the fourth quarter. Utah held Phoenix to one basket in the first five minutes of the fourth while putting their 17-2 run together. The Jazz challenged shots, got deflections and clogged passing lanes. Utah held Phoenix to six baskets and 35.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.
BAD MOVE: A win is a win, but the Jazz made the game more difficult than it needed to be. They allowed Phoenix, which has the worst record in the Western Conference, to get back in the game with a lackluster third quarter. When Utah's offense was in high gear in the first half, its defense couldn't stop the Suns. With the game being in doubt until the fourth quarter, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin had to tighten his rotation. Starters Jefferson and Hayward played more than 40 minutes apiece, and they could have used some rest with a stretch of four games in six days starting on Friday.
NOTABLE: Dragic did not play because the Suns decided to rest him. Phoenix interim coach Lindsey Hunter said prior to the game that "everybody" in the organization was in agreement that the beat-up Dragic needed some time off. He will also sit out against Sacramento on Thursday night. Jazz reserve center Enes Kanter suffered a grotesque subluxed left shoulder injury while battling for a loose ball on the floor with Hamed Haddadi early in the second quarter. Kanter did not return to the game and will have an MRI on Thursday to determine the severity of his injury. Kanter and Haddadi were to have a jump ball, but because Kanter had to leave the game, the Suns chose 6-foot-1 Mo Williams to jump against Haddadi. Phoenix, not surprisingly, gained possession after the tip.
UP NEXT: For the Suns, Thursday vs. Sacramento, Saturday vs. Indiana, Wednesday @ L.A. Clippers. For the Jazz, Friday @ Portland, Saturday vs. Brooklyn, Monday vs. Portland.