Suns vs. Jazz Preview: Utah Has Motivation Edge Between West Contenders

Action Network NBA analyst Austin Wang previews how to bet Friday's matchup between the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz.

Suns vs. Jazz Odds

Suns Odds +2.5
Jazz Odds -2.5
Over/Under 226.5
Time 8 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Two of the best Western Conference teams collide on Friday evening as Utah Jazz host the Phoenix Suns in Salt Lake City. There are two games remaining in the regular season for both teams.

Phoenix has locked up the number-one record in the league. They are an impressive 63-17 for the season. After sitting most of their starters in Wednesday’s loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, they could opt to rest their star players some more. They have little incentive to play through some of the minor injuries they are dealing with.

The Jazz, on the other hand, still have some seeding left to play for. They are currently in the fifth seed and slated to play the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. They are only one game ahead of the Denver Nuggets in the loss column and own the tie breaker as they went 4-0 against them in their season series.

A win clinches the division and the fifth seed, but the Jazz could risk falling to the sixth seed. This happens if they lose their final two game, and the Nuggets win their final game against the L.A. Lakers. Can the Jazz secure the fifth seed with a win over the Suns?

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Will the Real Suns Show Up?

The Suns received a pleasant surprise a couple of weeks ago when Chris Paul returned to the lineup much earlier than the originally anticipated timeline of 6-to-8 weeks for his fractured thumb.

Phoenix has been incredible and looks poised to take care of unfinished business and win avenge its Finals loss from last season. The Suns are ranked third in Offensive Rating and second in Defensive Rating, per NBA Advanced Stats. They are a well-oiled machine and are well equipped at all positions, featuring a perfect mix of stars and role players.

Chris Paul, Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Jae Crowder all got a night off in their last game against the Clippers. It was a second night of a back-to-back against a potential playoff opponent, so it makes sense.

The Suns almost made an epic comeback against the Clippers behind undrafted rookie Ish Wainright’s 20 points, but ultimately fell short.

The injury report is currently clean, but I think there could be a good chance that the Suns continue to rest some players. This would give the Jazz a huge advantage.

Tune-Up Game for the Jazz

The Jazz are coming off a 137-101 thrashing of the Oklahoma City Thunder without Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. This will be the final home game of the regular season and they have a chance to lock up the fifth seed. Their injury report only shows Trent Forrest will be unavailable, so expect their regular starters to take the court on Friday.

This team has been quite the enigma this season. They ran it back with the same core group of players and coaching staff for a couple of seasons, but have failed to yield any significant playoff success. There is a growing belief that if the Jazz fail once again, it could be time to blow up the Mitchell-Rudy Gobert duo.

There are some obvious team chemistry issues. More evidence was brought forth recently when it was noted that Mitchell only averages 2.3 passes to Gobert per game. Before winning their previous two games, the Jazz had lost six of its seven games and seemed to be imploding right before the playoffs. They’ve also blown a number of double-digit leads this season.

They had a players-only meeting to open up about the troubles, and it appears to have helped.  The number one ranked offense in the league will look to keep it rolling.

Suns-Jazz Pick

I like the Jazz to take this one down. They are hungrier and have more motivation as they try to lock down the fifth seed.

They will likely have all their starters while I have a suspicion we may see some Suns players sit, which could give this pick much more upside. I don’t expect the Suns’ defense to give a full effort against the Jazz, who have the number one ranked Offensive Rating in the league.

Finally, the cliche players’ only meeting the Jazz had seems to have lit a fire under them. They will look to turn all this negative publicity and energy and use this to gain some momentum for the playoffs. Give me the Jazz at -2.5, up to -3.

Pick:  Jazz -2.5 (up to -3)