SALT LAKE CITY — Devin Booker scored 33 points and the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Utah Jazz 111-105 on Friday night.
Deandre Ayton sealed the victory on a pass from Chris Paul with 18.4 seconds left. Ayton had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Paul had 16 points and 16 assists to help the Suns extend their franchise record with their 64th win.
“We read the game. Are they trying to take it away? Boom, we hit this guy,” Paul said. “They took Book and (Ayton) is open. They helped Mikal (Bridges) and we hit him. We weren’t surprised.
Bridges added 18 points, capping a 14-0 run at Phoenix in the fourth quarter to tie it at 98. His dunk and three-point play with 46 seconds left gave the Suns a 107-102 lead.
“I didn’t think we had great team spirit in the third,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “Then for some reason I saw this stability in our group. We call it the attrition effect, where if we can just stick with him and trust each other and keep playing the right way, we we can live with the results.
The Jazz didn’t score a field goal — nine straight misses — for nearly seven minutes in the fourth quarter.
“We had six assists in the second half,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “The ball stopped moving. We gave up something. When you don’t have effective possessions offensively, it becomes much harder for us to defend.
Utah has lost 16 games where it held double-digit leads this season. The Suns outscored the Jazz 36-13 in the fourth quarter.
“We knew we had to take it up a notch,” Booker said. “We knew they had given up some big leads this year.”
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 19 points for Utah. Slowed down by Bridges, Donovan Mitchell had 18 points on 7 of 21 shooting. Rudy Gobert finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“We had no stops and they were able to run. We stopped playing like we were playing earlier,” Gobert said. “We think too much in fourth gear and clutch time.”
After both teams rested stars in their previous games, this one felt like a playoff preview with brilliant execution at times and extraordinary effort.
Showing why these teams rank at the top of offensive efficiency, there were incredible baskets until the Suns suddenly cracked down.
The Suns have long since won the top seed in the NBA – and shown why they look like the team to beat.
“In hostile situations, it’s us against the world,” Bridges said. “We’re getting closer to each other and just getting stronger.
The Suns finished with a franchise-record 32 road wins and became the first NBA team since 1969-70 New York Knicks to finish with a better road winning percentage than the home winning percentage of all other teams.
“We have bad guys on this team,” Bridges said. “They love breaking the hearts of fans (on the road).”
The Jazz currently sit in fifth place in the Western Conference, but could possibly drop to sixth on the final night of the season.
Jordan Clarkson beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer to give Utah a 92-75 lead early in the fourth quarter, where the Jazz were one of the weakest finishers among playoff teams and the Suns were the best.
Carlos Boozer, who was a two-time All-Star with the Jazz, was honored during the third quarter with a standing chorus of Boooos — as was customary in his 2004-10 career at Utah. The Jazz haven’t returned to the Western Conference Finals since Boozer led them there in 2007.
BRIDGES FOR DPOY?
Besides his big shots in the clutch, Bridges helped Mitchell go 0-for-6 in the fourth quarter.
“I’m not a politician, and I’m not eloquent about pushing people,” Williams said, “but you can’t look at the effort that young man puts in every night at this end of the floor and then does what he does in violation.”
Bridges appreciated his coach’s opinion.
“Obviously I want to, but control what you can control, so I keep defending,” Bridges said.
Suns: A handful of Suns fans chanted “MVP! MVP!” when Booker fired free throws. … Officials called off a foul on Danuel House keeping Booker on a jumper in the third quarter, allowing Booker to make contact with a leg kick. … JaVale McGee got a technical in the fourth period.
Jazz: Grammy Award-winning Olivia Rodrigo, who filmed the musical High School Musical and its ‘Drivers License’ music video in Utah, sat courtside in a jazz singlet. … Mitchell led a rousing ovation for House after a number of commotion plays in the third quarter. … The Jazz had 33 free throw attempts to the Suns’ 15 attempts from the line.
Suns: in Sacramento on Sundays.
Jazz: in Portland on Sundays.