Utah knew it had a chance to make a statement on Sunday afternoon.

With a national audience watching against the top team in the league, the Jazz made the most of the opportunity. Led by a dominant effort from its bench, Utah held off a hard-changing Phoenix squad in the fourth quarter en route to a 118-114 victory on the road.

“Our biggest enemy is ourselves, “Rudy Gobert said postgame. “When we play together and compete defensively, there’s not a team in this league I don’t think we can beat.”

Before the all-star break, the Jazz had been a team that had struggled in clutch situations late in games. But now two games post-break, against Dallas and Phoenix, Utah has proven to be the superior team when it mattered most.

But how they’ve won these last two games late is where the message to the rest of the league is being sent.

Last Friday against Luka Doncic and Dallas, Gobert and Donovan Mitchell — Utah’s two all-stars — helped preserve the victory in the come-from-behind win.

On Sunday against Devin Booker and the Suns, Utah’s bench did the damage and helped hold on for the victory.

“This year, we went through some stuff, we went through some adversity, and something happened,” Gobert said. “That shift that happened, it was exciting to see that happen. We don’t take nothing for granted.”

Interestingly enough, the most vital player for the Jazz was the team’s latest edition to the roster.

Danuel House Jr., recently signed for the rest of the season a few weeks ago, found himself on the court in the closing minutes — and for a good reason. 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.

With House doing a lot of the dirty work on defense — and still adding eight points on 2-of-3 from beyond the arc — Jordan Clarkson provided more than just a spark on offense.

He finished with 22 points overall, but none were more important than the 10 he scored in the fourth quarter. One of the best isolation scorers in the league, Clarkson thrived when playing within the Utah offense as his ability to attack when the lane was open and find the open shooter kept the team in rhythm.

He added five rebounds, three assists, and two steals with a game-high +20 rating.

“A big play for me was when I beat (Jae) Crowder off the dribble and hit House in the corner. … Those are the plays I’ve got to continue making,” Clarkson said

“For a guy who’s got a green light, he’s a pretty unselfish guy,” head coach Quin Snyder added of Clarkson.

Overall, Utah’s bench outscored the Suns 43-11 as Clarkson, House, Hassan Whiteside, and Trent Forrest 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.

While Utah’s bench thrived and helped get the victory, the battle between Mitchell and Booker was sensational. Two of the top shooting guards in the game, they each made their presence felt and were able to keep their teams alive with superior shotmaking and creating skills.

While Booker finished with a game-high 30 points, including 13 in the final eight minutes of the game, Mitchell’s three-pointer with less than two minutes put the Jazz up 10 and the game out of reach.

With the stars out in full force, the game was just as entertaining.

Despite no Chris Paul, Phoenix came out swinging by jumping out to a 24-10 lead midway through the first quarter. But Mitchell responded for the Jazz, scoring seven points as they went on a 12-2 run before ending the quarter tied at 32.

The second quarter was a back-and-forth affair with each team exchanging buckets and leads before Utah went on a 7-0 run to lead 50-43 with four minutes to go. However, Phoenix ended the half on a 17-6 run to lead 60-56 at the break.

The Suns extended their lead to nine right out of the half, but that’s when Utah found a rhythm on both ends of the court. Forrest got things started with a layup in traffic as the Jazz closed the quarter on a 16-3 run as Mitchell and Clarkson each hit two three-pointers on four consecutive possessions to lead 94-89 after three.

Despite Booker’s attempted heroics, the Jazz fended off every attack as team defense and efficient offense proved to be the recipe for success down the stretch.

“We talked about it at halftime that we were a little too focused on trying to create matchup situations,” Snyder said of the second half adjustments,” Snyder said. “We were too tentative, we were thinking about that instead of attacking. … When the game gets stagnant, they’re tough.”

Gobert finished with his 37th double-double of the season when he had 16 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks. Conley added 13 points and three assists, while Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 11 points.

Deandre Ayton finished with 23 points and seven rebounds for Phoenix, while Cam Johnson also dropped 23 points on 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.

Utah will continue its five-game road trip when it faces Houston on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. MST.


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