February 06, 2015

The Utah Jazz have become known for their defense under Quin Snyder, and they've certainly tightened things up while taking control of their own playoff destiny.

That effort, along with Trey Lyles' performance, is making it easier to play without Derrick Favors.

With their second-leading scorer's status uncertain, the visiting Jazz hope to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff chase Sunday night when they seek their first four-game sweep of the Phoenix Suns in 16 years.

Utah surrendered a league-low average of 94.9 points in Snyder's first season and ranks second with 96.1 allowed per game so far in 2015-16. The club has elevated its defensive intensity of late, giving up just 87.8 in the last 10 of its current 9-3 stretch.

The Jazz (38-38) held mighty Golden State well below its league-leading scoring average (115.3) in Wednesday's 103-96 overtime home loss before limiting Minnesota to 37 points in the second half of Friday's 98-85 home victory. Rudy Gobert led the effort with three blocks as Utah improved to 17-6 when the center has turned away at least that many.

Gordon Hayward led the way offensively with 22 points while Lyles added 18 and Rodney Hood scored 17. Lyles could get another start after finishing one shy of his career high with Favors likely to be game-time call after sitting out due to right knee soreness.

Tied with Dallas for seventh in the West and one game ahead of ninth-place Houston, the Jazz can't afford to stumble against lesser opponents as they look to earn their second trip to the postseason in the past six years. They'll try to take care of business versus Phoenix (20-56) ahead of tough home matchups with San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We know every game is not going to be a blowout because you think it's going to be a blowout. ... It might be a grind," Hood said. "We're playing with urgency. ... It's hard not to (watch what other teams are doing.) But we control what we can control.''

Hood has given the club a lift in the past three games, averaging 22.3 points while hitting 12 of 21 from 3-point range. He had scored 18.7 per game over his previous three against Phoenix before finishing with eight on 4-of-13 shooting in a 103-69 home rout March 17.

The Jazz have won six of the past eight meetings, including three victories this season by an average of a 21.4 points. After limiting Phoenix to 82.3 points per game on 36.9 percent shooting in those contests, they can sweep this series for the first time since 1999-2000.

The Suns shot 38.7 percent while playing without Brandon Knight and Jon Leuer in Friday's 106-99 home loss to Washington. Knight remains doubtful with a sports hernia, while Leuer's status is uncertain because of an ankle injury.

Mirza Teletovic stepped up with 34 points and 12 rebounds while P.J. Tucker contributed 18 and 10. Devin Booker got off to a rough start this month with 14 points on 6-of-22 shooting after the rookie guard had averaged 22.4 points in 16 games last month.

''This is part of the process for Devin, being the closer,'' interim coach Earl Watson said after his team's fifth straight loss. ''I guarantee you he's more motivated (after this game).''

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