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SALT LAKE CITY – Two teams going in opposite directions meet on Wednesday night when the Utah Jazz host the Phoenix Suns.
The Jazz (29-28) are seeking to extend their NBA-leading winning streak to 11 games. The Suns (18-40) will be trying to end a six-game winless streak when they play their final game before the All-Star break.
The Suns’ most-recent loss was a 129-83 rout by Golden State on Monday in Oakland. It was their 11th loss in their last 12 games.
The lone bright spot in the loss at Golden State was the play of point guard Elfrid Payton, who scored 29 points while playing in his second game since being acquired at the trade deadline.
The Suns and Jazz have split two games this season, but Utah thrashed Phoenix 129-97 in the most recent meeting on Feb. 2, getting 40 points from rookie Donovan Mitchell on 14-of-19 shooting.
Mitchell is averaging a team-high 21.0 points per game during Utah’s 10-game winning streak and 19.5 points for the season. He overcame a poor shooting night (9 for 28) to hit a pair of go-ahead baskets in the final minute of the Jazz’s 101-99 win over San Diego on Monday.
“You can’t think about the misses, that’s the biggest thing,” Mitchell said. “I was continuing to stay locked in and just stay focused and understand the shots eventually were going to fall. Fortunately, they did.”
Mitchell hasn’t worked alone in helping the Jazz climb over .500 for the first time in two months. They’ve moved within 1 ½ games of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference – currently held by New Orleans.
Joe Ingles has been on fire over the last three games, scoring 22.3 points per game on 60 percent shooting. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert have taken turns dominating in the paint.
And Royce O’ Neale has done a bit of everything in two starts in place of injured point guard Ricky Rubio, averaging 6.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steal.
“We’ve been competing,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “That’s always crucial, but we have been playing good defense and sharing the ball. It sounds simple, but you hear it from coaches all the time because it’s hard to do all the time.”