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Last updated: Jan 26, 10:32 PM UTC
Mete started his sports journalism career in 2000. He has since worked for various national media outlets in Turkey as a basketball writer and commentator. Throughout his career he has mainly covered the NBA and made special interviews with NBA stars and figures including Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and many more.
Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz (Wednesday 26 January)
The Utah Jazz aim to avenge Monday night's loss to the Phoenix Suns with the teams meeting again on Wednesday in Salt Lake City and the teams heading in opposite directions lately.
Phoenix has sizzled since the start of January, winning 10 of its last 11 games by an average of 12.1 points, including seven double-digit victories. The Suns ran off their seventh consecutive victory after beating the short-handed Jazz 115-109 at Footprint Center on Monday. Phoenix opened up a 48-35 lead midway through the second quarter, but the stubborn visitors managed to erase the deficit and jumped ahead 95-91 in the early minutes of the fourth period. Then Chris Paul took over. The 36-year-old point guard ignited a 20-5 Suns run by making five shots and dishing out two assists to put the Suns back in the lead for good.
Paul finished the game just one rebound shy of a triple double, scoring a season-high 27 points – with 15 in the final period – along with 14 assists and nine boards. Phoenix’s leading scorer Devin Booker struggled on offense in the previous game against the Pacers, shooting only 5-of-23 from the field, but scored a team-high 33 points.
Utah was without six of its top nine leading scorers, including Donovan Mitchell (concussion), Rudy Gobert (left calf strain), Bojan Bogdanovic (left finger fracture), Joe Ingles (right ankle sprain), Mike Conley (right knee injury maintenance) and Royce O’Neale (right knee tendinitis). In their absence Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points to lead the Jazz, who lost for the eighth time in their past 10 games. Trent Forrest added a career-high 17 points while Eric Paschall and Danuel House Jr finished with 14 points apiece.
With the win, Phoenix has matched its best start through 46 games in franchise history, and they are quietly on pace for a franchise record-setting 65 wins. The Suns have just nine losses, their fewest at this juncture in a season since also opening 37-9 in the 2006-07 season.
They own the top spot in the Western Conference and they're putting some separation between them and the Golden State Warriors as the Suns now have a 3.5-game lead over the San Francisco squad.
As a team, Phoenix tops the NBA in net rating (7.9) – which contributes greatly to their continued success. It has been able to maintain a top-five defense while mixing and matching at center spot when DeAndre Ayton is out. Meanwhile, the Jazz fell to the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings.
It's been a rough month for Utah, especially after dealing with multiple injuries and health and safety protocols. Over the past 10 games, Gobert and Mitchell have only played in two games together, all while missing critical pieces in Bogdanovic, Ingles and Rudy Gay for multiple games as well. Yet, one should also see that the Utah Jazz simply have not been playing well lately. Six of their last eight losses came against some of the worst teams in the league. They were the Pacers’ only win over a recent 1-10 stretch, they gave the Pistons and the Pelicans rare wins and last week, the Jazz lost to the 15th-place Rockets and the struggling Lakers.
One to watch: Chris Paul
No team has been more consistent this season than the Suns. While every team has dealt with health and safety protocols and several have suffered injuries to core assets, the Suns have navigated the protocols without stumbling, and while top scorer Devin Booker and leading rebounder Ayton missed time, the team just keeps on winning.
The main reason for this success is the leadership and stellar performance of the All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who has become the NBA’s version of Benjamin Button. The ‘Point God’ recorded 53 assists and only 10 turnovers in his last four games and he leads the league in assists with 10.1 per game. CP3 is once again the best floor general in the NBA and I expect him to step up his game another notch against his counterpart Mike Conley who sat out the last game due to injury management (knee).
The Suns have proven that last season's trip to the NBA Finals was no fluke, posting the league's best record and best net rating in the first half of the 2021-22 season. At 18-4 they have the best road record in the league and against a depleted Utah Jazz team who once again might be without Mitchell and Gobert, I expect them to get the win at Vivint Arena.
- Suns to win outright.
- Over/Under: Over
- Chris Paul: Over if the assists are 10.5 and below.
NBA quick picks:
Los Angeles Lakers @ Brooklyn Nets (Tuesday, 25 January): Pick Brooklyn to win outright.
New York Knicks @ Miami Heat (Wednesday, 26 January): Miami to win and cover the spread.
Sacramento Kings @ Boston Celtics (Wednesday, 26 January): Boston to win and cover the spread.
Memphis Grizzlies @ San Antonio Spurs (Wednesday, 26 January): Pick over.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Golden State Warriors (Thursday, 27 January): Golden State to win and cover the spread.
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Last updated: Jan 26, 10:24 PM UTC
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