Jazz vs. Suns Preview: Will Chris Paul Injury Loom Large?

Joe Dellera breaks down Sunday's NBA game between the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns.

Jazz vs. Suns Odds

Jazz Odds +1.5
Suns Odds -1.5
Over/Under 227
Time 3:30 p.m. ET
Odds via <!–BetMGM–>BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Jazz visit the Suns in the Valley for this Western Conference showdown. Although the Suns are without their leader in Chris Paul, can they still show the Jazz that they are the top team in the West?

Let’s break it down.

Jazz Have Turned It On in February

The Jazz are fairly healthy entering this matchup, and even though they may be without Rudy Gay they’ve been without him for extended stretches this season.

The other Rudy, Rudy Gobert, has been incredible as of late. We just saw him shut down Luka Doncic on Friday night to close out that Jazz victory, and he’s moved to the betting favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. His defense at the rim and even in one-on-one coverage has been impressive lately. this will play a critical role against this Suns team.

The Jazz have turned it on overall in the month of February. They are 7-1 with the best point differential in the league, +16.7, and they are supported by the league’s best offense (122.8 points/100 possessions) and third-best defense (106.1 points/100 possessions), per Cleaning the Glass.

This is not overly surprising considering they are finally healthy and already had the league’s best Adjusted Offensive Rating, 116.1, on the entire season. This game may have a playoff feel, and Utah’s efficiency in the halfcourt could be the difference-maker in this matchup.

Can Suns Adjust to Life Post CP3 Injury?

The Suns are adjusting to life without Chris Paul who is out for the next few weeks with an avulsion fracture in his hand. The difficulty for the Suns is that their backup point guard, Cameron Payne (wrist) is also out for this matchup, and the newly acquired third-string point guard Aaron Holiday (ankle) is questionable after missing their last game to the Pelicans. This leaves a massive void in the Suns’ backcourt, as the facilitating responsibilities fall almost entirely on Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges.

Booker is not a natural facilitator, and Bridges can find his spots, but he is not either. This was not an issue against the Thunder, but it was immediately apparent against the New Orleans Pelicans. We saw this prior to Paul’s arrival in Phoenix; while this team made the Bubble, everyone’s game was elevated by Paul.

Paul’s absence and impact cannot be understated. He’s +8.0 points per 100 possessions, the best mark on the team. Additionally, without Paul, there’s no way to stagger the minutes so at least one of Paul or Booker is on the floor. When both are off, the Suns score just 108.1 points per 100 possessions, a significant downturn from their season-long mark of 115.2. Without Paul, the Suns should struggle to score efficiently and effectively.

Jazz-Suns Pick

The Jazz have struggled against the Suns and have lost six consecutive games to their Western Conference foes. So what is different here?

Utah’s defense is gelling as of late, and that’s not a good sign for a team without their top two point guard options. Without Paul and Payne to facilitate and find holes in the defense, it should be harder for Phoenix to push in transition, which would be the best way to attack this Jazz defense that excels in the halfcourt.

On the season, these teams are separated by just 1.1 in Adjusted Net Rating with the Suns beating the Jazz. However, the absence of Chris Paul looms large and dramatically changes this matchup and I expect Utah to pick up a victory.

Pick: Jazz +1.5 down to a PK