(Photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
The Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns are heading into Friday night's showdown in Salt Lake City on a positive note after picking up wins in their most recent outings.
Utah, which will also host Phoenix on Sunday, has won two straight coming into its third NBA in-season tournament game. While the Jazz hope to improve to 3-0 in pool play, the Suns are looking to keep momentum going overall and in tournament action. The Suns are 0-1 against their West Group A opponents.
Phoenix earned a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at home Wednesday after falling five times in its previous seven outings.
Devin Booker's return was a highlight, as he scored 31 points after missing five consecutive games with a strained right calf. Kevin Durant also netted 31 points in the 133-115 win, which snapped the Wolves' seven-game winning streak.
Along with making 12 of 22 shots, Booker contributed five assists and four rebounds.
"It's always nice just playing," he said. "I try to give my input from the bench, but it gets old after a while. I just want to get out there and compete with the team."
The Suns are still missing Bradley Beal. He was a late scratch from Wednesday's game due to a sore back, preventing Phoenix from having its three stars on the court at the same time.
It's uncertain when Beal -- who is listed as doubtful to play Friday -- will join Booker and Durant in action.
"It's tough, man. Just like I said, nobody wants to miss any games, especially when you're the best in the game and you want to prove it every night and something's holding you back," Booker said. "He's just trying to get right. He's taking all the steps, he's in there early every day in his treatment. We're gonna rally behind him, keep his morale high and make sure he's in good spirits until we get him back on the court."
The Jazz surged to an in-season tournament win on their purple-clad court Tuesday after returning from a 1-3 road trip. A 13-0 run in the fourth quarter played a pivotal role in their 115-99 victory over Portland.
"A good win for us," Jazz coach Will Hardy said. "The credit goes to the team for the work they put in. They've really dug in the last seven days. ... We enjoy the win tonight and back to work tomorrow."
Jordan Clarkson picked up the slack on a night when Utah's All-Star leader, Lauri Markkanen, was a bit off the mark. Clarkson scored a team-high 30 points, which was his third straight game with 26 or more points.
Markkanen managed to score 21 points, but he had a rough night from beyond the arc, going only 2-for-9 from deep and 8-of-18 overall.
The Jazz received important contributions from John Collins, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds, along with rookie point guard Keyonte George (15 points, seven assists, four rebounds), Collin Sexton (13 points, seven assists) and Kelly Olynyk (12 points, 12 rebounds).
"A lot of guys contributed tonight. Keyonte and Collin, each having seven assists, set the table for us tonight," Hardy said. "Six guys in double figures. A really good team win tonight. I'm hopeful that our team understands this is because of the work they're putting in. They shouldn't be satisfied. We can get a lot better as a team."
--Field Level Media