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Sports News |  “The sky does not fall” |  Utah battles Phoenix

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“The sky isn’t falling. … But that doesn’t mean we accept what is happening.”

That was head coach Quin Snyder’s message to his team and members of the media during his post-game speech.

What happened before those words was an up and down game against the Phoenix Suns, the best team in the league.

After trailing by 21 points late in the first quarter, the Jazz fought back and made it a two-point game late in the fourth. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get over the final bump, losing 105-97 to the Suns on Wednesday night.

Snyder said there were two ways to look at the outcome.

The sky isn’t falling because the team’s all-star trio of Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have played just four of 14 games together this month. Mitchell and Gobert have missed the last two games — both against Phoenix — making it extremely difficult to secure a win against the NBA’s No. 1 team.

On the other hand, this is a team that not only likes to win, but expects to win. After finishing with the league’s best record last season, Utah is more used to being on top, so they refuse to accept losses.

“We have a team that is capable, and I believe in them. That’s part of the reason there’s frustration. … From all of us,” Snyder said.

Without Mitchell, Mike Conley stepped in and was an absolute warrior on the court against the Suns. Despite being grabbed, pushed and beaten for most of the game, the 15-year-old guard put on arguably his best performance of the season when his team needed him the most.

He finished with his second double-double, dropping 16 points, 10 assists and four rebounds. Despite being defended by Chris Paul or Mikal Bridges (one of the game’s elite defenders), Conley controlled the offense and helped Utah execute to perfection on points on the return.

“Mike Conley spilled his guts on the court,” Snyder said after the game.

It wasn’t just Conley who was sensational for Utah.

Jordan Clarkson continued his mojo from the end of Monday night’s game until Wednesday’s rematch. After almost single-handedly bringing the Jazz back two nights ago, he finished tonight with a team-high 26 points, adding five rebounds, two assists and one steal. He shot 9 of 19 from the floor and his six 3-pointers tied his season high.

Despite the comeback attempt, the first quarter was one the Jazz wanted to completely forget about.

Royce O’Neale kicked things off with a layup in transition to start the scoring, but it was all Devin Booker and the Suns from then on. Booker finished with 21 points as Utah trailed 38-19 after one.

But as Snyder said, this is a team that found a way to fight and compete – and that’s precisely what happened in the second quarter.

The Jazz managed to reduce the deficit to 16 early in the quarter before increasing it one level at both ends of the field. They finished the half on a 21-7 streak as Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for 15 points in that span.

Utah trailed 50-48 at halftime.

Booker caught fire again in the third quarter, scoring 11 points, as Utah entered the fourth quarter with 10 points.

Trailing 12 early in the fourth, Clarkson again lived up to his “flamethrower” moniker as he knocked down three points on three consecutive possessions to ignite the Vivint Arena crowd and make it a four-point game.

After Phoenix, led by Paul and Booker, extended the lead to nine, Utah still had a run to go.

Conley and Clarkson attacked relentlessly, making a 10-3 run that made it a two-run game with just over two minutes remaining. But it was as close as it got as the Suns went on an 8-0 run to put the game aside.

“I want us to be competitive,” Snyder said. “We didn’t compete in the first quarter. We competed like crazy the rest of the game. … But we can’t have stretches like that.”

Hassan Whiteside finished with a double-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, while Eric Paschall added 11 and five rebounds in just 13 minutes.

The program doesn’t stop as Utah hits the road again to face Ja Morant and the third-seeded Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. MST.

“It’s not about winning and losing,” Snyder said. “It’s about engaging in the things that allow you to win. … I have confidence that we can do those things.”

“The sky does not fall” | Utah battles Phoenix

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