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Suns Scrape by Jazz 131-128 after Kevin Durant Dagger

© Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns (6-6) defeated the Utah Jazz (4-8) 131-128 tonight in an extremely thrilling In-Season Tournament matchup. Kevin Durant sealed the game with an ice-cold three with 18 seconds left.

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Tonight was Phoenix’s second game in the NBA In-Season Tournament and the third for Utah. The Jazz are now 2-1 in tournament play, while the Suns improve to 1-1.  Tonight was a must win for the Suns if they wanted to have any chance of going to Vegas, as the Los Angeles Lakers are 2-0 and own the tiebreaker over Phoenix since they beat them.

The Suns revealed today that Bradley Beal will be out for at least three more weeks due to a low back strain, so the Suns once again had to step up in his absence.

Both teams exploded offensively in the first half, shooting over 55% each and were even at 75 heading into the third. 

They cooled off a little bit in the second half, but Utah refused to go away despite the Suns’ best efforts all game. The game eventually ended up coming down to the wire, as Durant and Devin Booker played heroes once again for the Suns.

Durant finished with 38 points on 15-of-22 shooting (6-of-8 on threes) to go along with nine assists and nine rebounds.

Booker had a career-high 15 assists, as well as 24 points including 2-of-3 shooting from deep. Six Suns scored in double figures for the second straight game.

Jordan Clarkson was the one who willed Utah back in the game several times tonight. He finished with 37 points for the Jazz.

Both teams shot over 50% from the floor, while the Suns shot 54.5% from deep. Most of the stats were pretty much even across the board.

Phoenix and Utah will also square off on Sunday in Utah for their second game in a row against each other, as the Jazz will look for revenge.

Here’s how the action unfolded:


Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker, Eric Gordon, Grayson Allen, Kevin Durant, Jusuf Nurkić

Utah Jazz: Keyonte George, Jordan Clarkson, Ochai Agbaji, Lauri Markkanen, John Collins

First Quarter

On the very first possession, you could see the benefit of having Booker back for a second-straight game, as he found Durant wide open for a corner three. Booker then hit a pull-up jumper on the ensuing possession after the Suns got a stop on defense.

Booker and Durant continued to cook, just as they did in Phoenix’s win over the Timberwolves Wednesday, and the Suns found themselves up 13-4 less than two minutes into the game. The star duo combined for 11 of these points.

The Suns scored on their first seven possessions of the game, and Utah looked like it was completely overmatched.

However, the Jazz eventually responded with a 7-2 run led by Jordan Clarkson, and it was 21-13 with 7:30 left.

Booker made another bucket before getting subbed out with seven minutes left in the quarter due to his minutes restriction. Booker had seven points and four assists in only five minutes.

The Suns saw no drop off right after Booker checked out, as Eric Gordon cashed a 27-foot triple, which made the Suns 5-for-6 from deep to start the night. This bucket also gave Kevin Durant his fourth assist very early in the game.

However, after a nice Durant fadeaway, which marked his third straight make on three tries, Utah went on a 7-1 run, and it was 29-21 Phoenix with 4:38 remaining in the first quarter.

The teams went back and forth the next few possessions, as the Suns were shooting over 75% and the Jazz nearly 60% with just over three minutes to go in the first. Booker checked back in at this point for Durant with the Suns leading 34-26.

Booker found Eubanks for an easy layup right away for his fifth assist of the game. The Jazz responded with their hot shooting, and it was only 39-36 Suns with a minute left in the first, as the Jazz went on a 10-3 run.

The first quarter ended with Phoenix leading 41-38 after the Suns cooled off a little bit and the Jazz began to heat up led by their bench.

Durant had an insanely efficient first quarter, as he had 10 points of four-of-four shooting, five assists and four rebounds. Booker had nine points and six assists. Both had zero turnovers as well.

Phoenix shot 61% from the floor and 7-for-8 (87.5%) from deep. Utah shot 65% from the floor and 57% from deep.

Second Quarter

The teams opened up the second in another back-and-forth battle. Lauri Markkanen cut the Suns’ lead to only one right away with a jumper.

Keita Bates-Diop made two straight buckets and a highlight-reel alley-oop to the high-flying Drew Eubanks made it 48-42 Suns with 9:42 left in the half.

Booker subbed out at the 9:41 mark, and the Suns played less than a minute without Booker and Durant. Gordon was the one who checked in for Booker and hit another deep triple right away.

When Durant did check back in, he hit an incredible contested three over Markannen to continue his perfect night. He eventually was up to 6-of-6 as the Suns led 60-52 with 5:50 remaining in the second quarter. Durant finally missed on his seventh attempt from the field

The Jazz continued to respond to everything the Suns threw at them, and it was 64-58 Phoenix with 4:07 left. The Suns started the second quarter 2-of-8 from three after their remarkable first quarter from deep.

Booker checked back in at this point to play alongside Durant, but Utah stayed in attack mode. It was soon a tie game at 66 with 2:41 to go after Jazz rookie Keyonte George could not miss.

The Jazz took their first lead of the game with 1:26 to go in the half with a John Collins putback layup to make it 70-68.

Durant singlehandedly kept the Suns within one possession despite the Jazz seemingly not missing on any shot. It was tied at 75 at halftime, as the Jazz could not miss on any of last few possessions.

Durant had 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting (0 free throws), six rebounds and five assists, as no one could stop him. Meanwhile, Booker did not score his first points of the second quarter until the last second on free throws. He still almost had a double-double in the half, finishing with 11 points and nine assists. His nine asssists tied a career-high for most in a half.

George had 11 in the second quarter for the Jazz, and Clarkson led Utah in scoring with 16 in the half.

In total, the Suns shot 56% from the floor and 59% from deep. The Jazz converted 57% of their field goals and 56% of their threes.

Third Quarter

The two teams actually started playing some defense to start the third.

Booker made his first bucket of the half on a fadeaway that took two high bounces off the rim and still went in. He had missed his previous five shots before this make. This gave the Suns a 80-79 lead with 10:16 to go in the third.

The Jazz matched everything the Suns did and soon had their biggest lead at three after a clean swish by Markkanen made it 87-84 with 7:56 left in the quarter.

Gordon answered a couple possessions later with the Suns’ 11th triple of the game to tie the game at 87 with 7:07 left.

The Jazz were easily driving into paint as the Suns went to a lineup with no center and Durant and Bates-Diop in the frontcourt. Utah had 12 points in the paint in the third quarter alone still with 3:16 to go. They led 95-91.

The Suns deployed a lineup change out of the break to try to help out on defense, and it worked on both ends. They ran with Jordan Goodwin, Booker, Nassir Little, Bates-Diop and Eubanks.

Booker got a double-double with his 10th assist of the game as Little hit a three. Then, Eubanks knocked down a three, his second straight game with one. This made him 2-for-2 from deep on the year and started an 8-0 run for Phoenix.

Phoenix took a 102-99 lead heading into the final quarter. In total, the Suns ended the quarter on a 15-6 run. Both teams shot under 50% in the quarter for the first time all night, as Phoenix won the third 27-24.

Booker had seven points in the quarter for the Suns, while Clarkson had 12 for the Jazz.

Fourth Quarter

The Suns looked to get out and run to start the fourth with same lineup in, and it worked to perfection.

Phoenix opened the quarter on an 8-3 run with Booker scoring six of these points. The Suns led 110-102 with 9:39 left in the game after a Booker triple.

This lineup stayed in until the 7:21 mark with Phoenix leading 114-107. Durant, Gordon and Grayson Allen checked in for Booker, Goodwin and Bates-Diop.

The Jazz kept it close, but a Gordon three made it 117-109 Phoenix with 6:01 left.

Utah and Clarkson refused to go away, as the flamethrower hit a contested, deep triple to cut into deficit, as the Suns now led 119-115 with 4:44 to go. Booker checked back in shortly after.

After only four points in the third, Durant had five straight for the Suns, and they led 124-115 with 3:11 left in the game.

Clarkson would not let the Suns pull away AGAIN, as he led an 8-0 run. A ridiculous three-point shot made it a one-point game with 1:42 remaining to give him 34 for the game.

Durant extended the Suns lead to 126-123 with his first two free throws of the game after nearly posterizing John Collins. Collins made it a one-point game once again with two free throws of his own.

Then, Durant responded with the dagger three-pointer. After Durant’s three, Bates-Diop stuffed Markkanen at the rim, and Allen hit two free throws to increase the lead to five.

Clarkson made it interesting with three seconds left as he cashed in a three with three seconds left to make it a three-point game.

The Jazz did not foul on the final possession, giving the Suns a 131-128 victory.

Devin Booker had a career night against the Jazz

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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