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A "star was born" in Mexico City this past Thursday & Saturday...
The Jazz have fought through injuries all season to become a real threat to win the Northwest Division (currently lead OKC by one game at 26-16). Defense has been Utah's strength all season, as the Jazz rank first in both points allowed (94.8 PPG) and opponents' FG percentage (43.0%) plus while the Jazz are near the bottom in points scored (999.0 PPG ranks 28th), the team shoots well (46.6% overall, including 37.0% on threes, both of which rank 8th). Gordon Hayward is now one of the league's best small forwards and along with center Rudy Gobert, are both making strong cases for All-Star consideration. Hayward is averaging a career-best 22.1 points per game this season on 46.8 percent shooting (adds 5.8 RPG and 3.6 APG). Gobert is imposing on the defensive end and has 10-plus rebounds in 27 straight games and has notched 28 double-doubles this season. Gobert is also averaging career highs in points (12.3 per game), rebounds (12.4) and blocks (2.5).
However, the Suns come into this contest having won three of five games (no small feat for a team with a 13-27 record) and Booker's (20.3 PPG on the season) play in Mexico City has had to give him confidence. Teamed with PG Bledose (20.0-5.0-5.9) and backup PG Knight (12.2), the Suns have an excellent backcourt. Yes, small forward T.J. Warren (14.0) is the Suns' lone scoring threat up front but center Tyson Chandler should be looking forward to his matchup with Gobert, as he comes in averaging 17.4 RPG over his last five.
The Jazz have hosted the Suns twice this season with wins by just seven and five points, respectively. Utah failed to cover either game and here at Talking Stick Resort Arena (do the Suns ever play an actual home game?), I look for Utah have plenty of trouble. Take the 'home' dog!