The year 2020 ended with a loss. The Utah Jazz stumbled against the Phoenix Suns, losing 106-95 at Vivint Arena on Thursday night.
And so the year 2021 will begin with a plan and a hope of better things to come.
“We just need to be better,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said.
That’s a simple resolution for all of us—on and off the basketball court—as a difficult year finally comes to a close.
The Jazz had already seen the Suns twice in the preseason, but Snyder and his squad knew Devin Booker and the Suns would be a different challenge when the games started counting.
“As far as any success or challenges you had against a team in the preseason, I think you can pretty much throw that out the window,” Snyder said. “They’re a different team than we played in the preseason. We know that.”
Booker finished with a game-high 25 points, out-doing his All-Star counterpart Donovan Mitchell’s 23 points. The Jazz got 18 points and 14 rebounds from All-Star center Rudy Gobert, and another 16 points from point guard Mike Conley. But, in the end, it wasn’t enough against the Suns.
Phoenix shot better than 51 percent from 3-point territory on the night and posed problems for the Jazz on the other end with their physicality on the perimeter.
“We need to be consistent with our physical mentality that we want to try to implement within the game,” Conley said. “Tonight, the Suns put their foot down and put their stamp on the game. They came out and were the aggressor. That’s what we want to be. But we can control that. That’s the good thing. We have another game tomorrow to get back at it.”
The Suns led by as much as 21 on the night, putting the Jazz in a hole they never could dig themselves out of.
“There were a number of things,” Snyder said, assessing his team’s performance. “… We didn’t play well.”
| The good parts of that one pic.twitter.com/1DXoJAio8h
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) January 1, 2021
Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles rarely asks players to swap jerseys. In fact, there’s only one guy playing in the NBA today with whom Ingles has asked to trade: his former teammate, Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder.
As Crowder returned to Salt Lake City, where he played 107 games over two seasons, he was looking forward to matching up with his Aussie buddy on the court.
“We have a great relationship,” Crowder said Thursday morning. “We still talk. … He’s one of my all-time favorite teammates. He’s even keeled no matter whether we’re winning or losing, tough stretches or good stretches. I appreciated that when I was around him.”
While they’re good friends off the court, Crowder was expecting a fierce battle on it.
“He’s a big trash-talker,” Crowder said of Ingles. “He’s going to play physical and get up into you. He’s a competitor. He’s one of the most highly competitive guys in our league. He can get going and make shots, but he’s just so savvy. And he does trash talk and get under your skin, and then bang a 3 in your face and let you hear about it.”
The Jazz start the New Year with a Jan. 1 matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers. The Jazz host L.A. on Friday at 7 p.m. MT.