5 takeaways from Suns topping Jazz for second time in three days as Devin Booker goes for 43

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SALT LAKE CITY — Devin Booker was playing so good Wednesday night, a small, vocal part of the crowd chanted, "M-V-P, M-V-P."

Scoring 21 of his game-high 43 in the first quarter, Booker set the tone in leading the short-handed Suns to a 105-97 rematch win over the Jazz at Vivint Arena two days after beating them in Phoenix.

Without Deandre Ayton (ankle), Jae Crowder (wrist), JaVale McGee (sore knee) and Cameron Payne (wrist), the Suns (38-9) led by as many as 21 in the first with Booker outscoring the entire Jazz team in the quarter, 21-18.

Utah (30-19) responded by cutting that lead down to two, 50-48, at the break, but Phoenix went back up by as many as 10 in the third and held off repeated Utah fourth-quarter rallies to extend the NBA's longest active win streak to eight in a row.

Up 92-90 with 3:39 left in the game, Chris Paul and Booker combined for the next 10 points to give the Suns an 102-94 lead with 1:01 left in the game.

Paul scored 15 of his 21 in the fourth quarter on 5-of-7 shooting.

The Jazz were minus Donovan Mitchell (concussion protocols) and Rudy Gobert (calf) again. They also missed Monday's 115-109 loss to the Suns, but Mike Conley Jr., Joe Ingles, Royce O'Neale and Bogan Bogdanović were all back after not playing in Phoenix.

So while they were without their top two players, everyone was available to challenge Phoenix, but once again fell to the NBA's best team. The Suns have now won six straight over Utah with Booker leading the way in the latest victory.

The Suns return home to host the Timberwolves Friday.

Here are 5 takeaways from Wednesday night's Phoenix win:

1. When Booker has it going as he did in the first quarter, it looks great, especially when the Suns are up 21 as they were Wednesday night.

He's making tough shots. They appear in the flow, but some of them are just Booker being a certified scorer.

At some point, he's going to cool off. Just the nature of the game.

When that happens, Booker is still taking shots because he was once hot, but the other four guys aren't always in a flow.

So there's a fine line between Booker scoring at will and the other four guys staying aggressive.

Sometimes they do. Other times, they ball watch.

That was the case in the finals when Booker had those back-to-back 40-pieces, but can't argue with the Suns when they're riding his hot hand.

Oh yeah, Booker also had 12 rebounds.

2. Can't leave him open.

Just can't.

Cam Johnson got a trail 3 that put Phoenix ahead by nine, 89-80, with 6:35 left.

This guy believes he's one of the best shooters in the league and on a night when points seemed hard to come by at times, Johnson is the last guy you want to leave open.

In a game like this, shot making and hustle plays usually determine the outcome.

The Suns have the shot makers, Paul and Booker.

Those two brought the game home.

Paul's ability to score on pick-and-roll when the defense knows its coming is crazy. He really makes it look easy, but he's doing it against Hassan Whiteside, who blocks shots, but isn't nearly the overall defender Gobert is.

On top of that, the Suns have guys who make hustle plays.

Mikal Bridges had a huge offensive rebound that led to a Booker jumper to put Phoenix up four with 2:33 left.

Utah once again had a chance to pull one out against Phoenix, but couldn't stop the Suns from making shots and hustle plays.

3. The Jazz and Suns have two of the deepest rosters, with serious talent on both sides.

So even though they weren't full strength for these back-to-back games, the Jazz and Suns have two more matchups.

Feb. 27 in Phoenix. April 8 in Salt Lake City.

While we want to see these two clash with everyone available, the odds are against that happening. Between injuries and COVID-19, neither team may be full strength at any point in the season.

If the standings remain the same, they may meet in the second round of the playoffs as Phoenix is first in the West and Utah stands third.

So maybe both will be full go then.

Doubt it.

That's why these two games are important because both teams may be in this position come later in the regular season and in the playoffs.

So if they met in the postseason, edge Phoenix because of depth. Mitchell and Booker could cancel each other out.

Same with Gobert and Ayton, but the Suns appear to have better depth. We're past the halfway point, but there's a lot to be determined.

4. The Suns only had nine players available. That's just one more than the league minimum, but one of those nine is a two-way player.

Ish Wainright.

He's earned his place on this team and has been a positive contributor most of the time.

That certainly was the case Wednesday night.

Wainright hit two 3s with the second one giving Phoenix a 72-62 lead with 2:33 left in the third after Utah cut that 21-point lead down to two to start the third.

The Suns limited the Jazz to 16 points in the quarter in building a well-needed cushion for the fourth.

Now back to Wainright. He's a unique player.

Phoenix Suns' Ish Wainright (12) congratulates Devin Booker (1) in the second half during an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Phoenix Suns' Ish Wainright (12) congratulates Devin Booker (1) in the second half during an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Having played football in college at Baylor, he's certainly built like someone who wore shoulder pads and a helmet, but the 6-6, 250-pound Wainright has very good body control to avoid being a bowling ball out there and just knocking people over.

Can knock down shots, defends pretty good but he makes the right plays. Wainright rarely makes mistakes.

That's how you earn trust. That's why Monty Williams wishes he had played him more in Monday's win.

That's why he's still with the Suns.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) reacts after scoring against the Utah Jazz in the first half during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) reacts after scoring against the Utah Jazz in the first half during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

5. Finally, the Suns are in the middle of a stretch in which they play every other day that began Jan. 20 at Dallas and ends Feb. 7 at Chicago.

The next night, they're at Philadelphia on Feb. 8 to end a four-game road trip.

The Suns then return home to face Milwaukee on Feb. 10 in the first meeting between the two since the NBA Finals, which the Bucks won in six after Phoenix held a 2-0 series lead.

Phoenix ends this stretch Feb. 12 against Orlando at home before getting two days in between games, but face a home back-to-back starting Feb. 15 against the Clippers and ending Feb. 16 against Houston going into the All-Star break.

Phoenix Suns center Bismack Biyombo (18) defends as Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) goes to the basket in the first half during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Phoenix Suns center Bismack Biyombo (18) defends as Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) goes to the basket in the first half during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

That is some stretch as the Suns play Minnesota, San Antonio, Brooklyn, Atlanta and Washington before facing the Bulls in Chicago.

So they could use the All-Star break, but the Suns coaching staff, Paul, Booker and possibly Smith, won't get to relax over that break.

The Suns have the NBA's best record in the West and the league. So Monty Williams and his staff will be headed to Cleveland to coach in the game. Paul is a top-five MVP candidate again. So he'll likely get the coaches vote to make it as a reserve as should Booker.

Then there's Smith, who could be selected for the Rising Stars challenge as one of the 12 sophomores. He's a long shot, but could make it.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: 5 takeaways from Suns topping Jazz for second time in three days

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