Finally healthy, the Jazz appear to be fulfilling their heightened expectations as they’ve emerged from the all-star break dominant on both ends of the court.

Utah looked to prove that a victory over Luka Doncic and the hard-charging Dallas Mavericks was no fluke when they flew south to face first-place Phoenix. Behind a dominant effort from the bench and the continued greatness of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz held off a fourth quarter charge and took down the Suns 118-114 on Sunday afternoon.

“It feels different, it looks different, you know what I mean?” Mitchell said postgame. “I’m excited because it’s just like you walk off the floor you feel gassed, you feel like everything was just left out there by everybody.”

Here are five things to know following the win:

1.) Bench Gives Big Boost
Entering the season, the Jazz were widely regarded as one of the deepest teams in the league. Aided by sixth man of the year Jordan Clarkson, runner-up Joe Ingles, and free agent additions Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gay, Utah’s biggest problem was finding minutes for everyone.

However, Clarkson has struggled for parts of this season, Ingles has been traded to Portland, Gay has battled injuries, and Whiteside’s play has been up-and-down. This meant that Utah’s once-vaunted depth was struggling, and likewise, so was the team.

But something has changed of late, and the Jazz as a team are thriving with the help of its second unit — as evidenced by Sunday’s victory.

Utah’s bench was dominant, outscoring the Suns 43-11 as Clarkson, Whiteside, Danuel House Jr., and Trent Forrest all played 12 or more minutes and finished with a rating of +13 or higher. Likewise, Phoenix’s primary players off the bench played 13 or more minutes, and all finished with a -12 rating or lower.

Getting that contribution from their second unit is what the Jazz expected earlier in the season, but it’s taken time to fit all of the new pieces together. With roles clearly defined and everyone understanding the expectations, Utah looks as formidable as ever heading down the final stretch.

“With some of the additional depth that we have, we have opportunities to play guys,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “That kind of collective mindset and whatever it takes mentality, is something that’s really important, and I think it’s unusual.”

2.) Utah Comes Up Clutch. … Again
In the final game before the all-star break, the Jazz blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead in a loss to the Lakers. Despite dominating for three and a half quarters, all anyone could talk about was the blown lead — and with it came questions regarding Utah’s inability to close games this season.

Now two games post-break and it appears the Jazz are not the same team they were just two weeks ago. In victories over Dallas and Phoenix, Utah has had to either overcome a deficit or hold on to a lead, accomplishing both in very impressive fashion.

After coming from behind against the Mavericks, primarily due to the play of Mitchell and Gobert, Utah was able to hold off a ferocious rally from the Suns due to the play of its bench.

The Jazz turned a nine-point deficit early in the third quarter into a five-point lead heading into the final 12 minutes. They then held off a fierce rally as Phoenix hit three three-pointers in the last three minutes — but the Jazz had a response every time. Whether it was a three-pointer of their own or their ability to get stops, Utah deserves all the credit in the world for coming up clutch. … Again.

3.) Total Team Effort
What makes this Utah team so unique is that the egos are legitimately checked at the door. The goal of the team outweighs the collective goals of the individual, and the Jazz have used that to their advantage — otherwise, they never would’ve beaten the Suns.

Typically, Royce O’Neale is on the court at the end of games. As Utah’s premier perimeter defender and glue guy, his contribution can never be overlooked. But against Phoenix, Snyder elected to go with the hot hand in House, a recent signee with the team.

While House was pivotal in the victory, mainly for his defense on Devin Booker late in the game, O’Neale served as his biggest supporter — something that caught the eye of everyone on the roster.

“You look at Royce in the huddle and after the game, and he was as excited as anybody,” Mitchell said. “That’s what makes this team so special. If we want to win, we are going to have to put the egos aside. We are going to have to trust the staff.”

“Danuel was doing an excellent job, and Royce was the first one on the bench talking to him,” Snyder added.

While O’Neale will more than likely play down the stretch in many key games, the fact that the Jazz have multiple options only increases the team’s strength.

4.) Welcome To The Jazz, Danuel House
As mentioned above, Snyder elected to go with the new guy down the stretch, and House more than rewarded him for that confidence.

His combination of length and quickness on defense was something the Jazz had been missing for most of the season, which is primarily why opposing guards thrived down the stretch against them.

But House was precisely what Utah needed, a complete annoyance who just hustled and found himself in the right spot at the right time. His ability to switch on defense and contest shots bothered the Suns late, resulting in a +16 rating.

“He’s just competing out there. He ain’t scared of nobody. … And it’s contagious,” Gobert said of House.

“Give him different looks, just not make it easy,” House said of how he defended Booker. “He’s a talented scorer, of course. … So, it was my job to make it harder. I think we did a good job tonight, me, Royce (O’Neale) and the gang did a really good job of making it hard tonight. I mean, yeah he was 50%, but 24 shot attempts for 30 points. Pshhh, you can’t beat it.”

5.) Let The Good Times Roll
It’s been proven that the Jazz can rise to the occasion and take down some of the top teams in the NBA. But with what has been a problem for much of the season, can Utah easily dispatch some of the lower-ranked teams?

Consistency has been their biggest issue this year, but after winning eight of nine — including victories over Golden State, Dallas, and Phoenix — the Jazz will now face Houston, New Orleans, and Oklahoma City in their next three games. The Pelicans sit at No. 10 in the Western Conference Standings while the Rockets and Thunder are the bottom two teams.

It’s one thing to beat the great teams, but if Utah is focused and ready for a postseason charge, they won’t waste time with others and handle business.

“We can’t stop. … We have Houston next,” Mitchell said. “Are we going to go and play well, or are we going to act like we won a championship because we won a couple of games? We really have to keep playing the way we have been playing. … That’s going to be important going forward.”


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