Saric promised a bar fight and the match was just that: playoff sensation, of teams with a fired competitive spirit. Very good, very good teams. Two that, in different trajectories, are in collision rhythm at the top of the NBA: now, after this 117-113 after overtime for Arizona, 38-13 for the Jazz and 36-14 for the Suns. Just a game and a half difference in favor of Salt Lake City, who have been the best team in the rankings for most of the season but now see that position in serious jeopardy. The Suns are coming for him. Behind, further afield, are 16 losses for the Sixers and Nets in the East and 18 for the Clippers and Nuggets in the West.
A tremendous West, by the way. In which the Clippers, the Lakers with Davis and LeBron back, the Nuggets and these two teams, Suns and Jazz, will come to the decisive fight, right now with the right to feel as good as anyone. And with a favorable inertia for the former, who started the season 8-8 and since then have not stopped going further. And that add up seven wins in a row, ten in eleven games, 16 in 19, 20 in 24 … The Jazz have now lost two straight games, the second in a game they both went 9-1 in the last 10. Someone had to lose. Somewhat worse, yes, that in their best moment of the season, in which they shone at historical levels, those of Quin Snyder have continued to win sustained by their collective efficiency and by a more comfortable schedule than usual in this Wild West.
The party promised … and delivered. With profit. The Suns won after a hysterical finish and a forced overtime due to mistakes and a 3-pointer by Donovan Mitchell with 10 seconds remaining. In overtime, Devin Booker and Chris Paul took out the pylon hammer and the victory remained at home, although it took final cold blood in Paul’s free throws after the last desperate attempts of the Jazz, who were rebuilt after a bad first half (51-40) and took command in several moments of the second half (95-96 with four minutes remaining). Then they lost it and lengthened it … to lose it again in a titanic duel of young stars. Donovan Mitchell threw a lot to do what it took (41 points, 16/35 shooting). Devin Booker replied with 35 points, 13/31 and momentous baskets in overtime after failing before and after Mitchell’s last 3-pointer in regulation time. Pure instinct.
The Suns won by everything else. In a duel between excellent defensive teams, they had one more point of intensity in the battle for the rebound (+16, +9 in attack) and ran better in transition, especially when it was time to defend. Details, those who decide the duels between teams. On a bad day for O’Neale, Ingles or Mikal Bridges, Crowder, Conley, Cam Johnson, Bogdanovic worked hard … Gobert (16 points, 18 rebounds) saw part of his incidence absorbed by DeAndre Ayton’s great game: more than 41 minutes on the court, 18 points with a 7/9 near the rim and seven of his 12 rebounds in attack. Growing up in a team for which the arrival of Chris Paul has been capital. One of the great guards in history, no matter how much he has never played a Finals, he reconnected all the pieces on the court and added 16 points between the fourth quarter and overtime. He finished with 29 and 9 assists. At 35, close to 36, he has the Suns (after ten years without a playoffs) within reach of the best record of the Regular Season. And with the look of a piranha that no one will want to see in the playoffs. Like these Jazz. Or the Clippers, the Lakers, the Nuggets … again a Wild West. Very wild.