Apparently, this is good, clean defense in Utah. - Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
The Spurs lost a physical game to the Jazz in Salt Lake City.
With 6.7 seconds remaining and the score tied at 96, Gordon Hayward inbounded the ball to Mo Williams. Mo caught the ball and nonchalantly dribbled 15 feet behind the three point line. Hayward slipped through and ran to the opposite side of the court. Time ticked away as Mo slowly made his way to the three point line.
'What is this? Is this a play? Is he really just going to throw up a contested three pointer? Does Utah have a coach?' These were a few of the questions that raced through my mind. Williams had been forgettable throughout the night. Up to this point, he had shot 3 of 8 from the field going 0 for 3 from beyond the arc. So, this is it? This extremely late game, which can best be described as disagreeable, is going to come down to Mo Williams forcing a contested three at the buzzer? That’s just perfect. And of course, it went in.
The game was disagreeable because it was ugly. It was ugly because in Utah, the Jazz are allowed to play a style of defense that would make the Bad Boy Pistons blush. I swear to you that Demarre Carroll did not play a single defensive possession without fouling. His style of defense is illegal. His defense is a hand-check. And it’s not a soft touch, it’s closer to a stiff-arm.
It’s weird. In my preview, all I did was write about how officials favor the Jazz in Utah. I wrote about it. I expected it. I did everything I could to prepare myself for it, and yet, it still was incredibly jarring to watch. Jazz fans will point out that the Spurs had three more free throw attempts than the Jazz. That number should have been closer to 20.
Let me show you where the non-calls hurt the Spurs, statistically. Fast Break Points: Utah 29, Spurs 12. These fast break points had nothing to do with one team’s fresh legs or the other’s tired legs. The vast majority of these fast break points were created by non-calls. The Spurs’ player would get hammered and knocked to the ground. There wouldn’t be a whistle and the Jazz turned these gifts into fast break points. It happened over and over again.
These non-calls are significant because not only did the officials take free throws from the Spurs, but they gave Utah a numbers advantage heading in the opposite direction. The 29 fast break points resulted in at least a net 40 point swing in Utah’s favor. Take the Spurs’ two free throws away and give Utah a two point layup; that’s a four point swing in Utah’s favor. Do that over 29 fast break points and you can see how this could destroy a team’s chances at victory.
The Spurs’ offense was forced to devolve. The Spurs were unable to move the ball because Utah’s players were fouling off the ball as well as on the ball. The Spurs only recorded 18 assists for the game. It’s not that the Spurs wanted to go one on one every time. It’s that the officials forced the Spurs to change their offensive approach by not calling fouls. The Spurs’ ball movement requires finesse and offensive fluidity. Fouling the Spurs is a great way to shut down their offense.
In the fourth quarter, Sean Elliott matter-of-factly stated, “You’re going to get slapped and grabbed and knocked to the floor in this building. Don’t expect a whistle.” Is that not INSANE? Why shouldn’t they expect a whistle? It’s the same league, right? Same rules? Don’t expect the officials to call the game as they do in every other NBA arena across the nation? What? It’s so inconsistent and illogical. That’d be like David Stern allowing something to happen over and over again for a decade only to suddenly decide it was punishable by a $250,000 fine. These things can’t happen, right? There has to be some way to challenge this.
Oh, there’s not? So we just have to live with it? Well that totally sucks.
The Jazz played extremely hard throughout the game. They didn’t take a single minute of the 48 off. I know I just wrote 700 words about how the officials took this game from the Spurs, but to be fair, the Jazz played as well as they could play and got the win. It’s not their fault that the officials allowed them to foul. In fact, it’d be wrong of them if they didn’t take advantage of the officials’ gifts.
Despite what we just went over, the Spurs were in this game and probably should have won. The Spurs led for most of the fourth quarter and had a few opportunities to create a substantial lead. Unfortunately, they squandered their chances and thus, Mo Williams dribbled the last seconds away for a contested three pointer.
It was truly an ugly game to watch. If you decided to just skip this one, you made a great decision. In my opinion, only three Silver and Black players had good games. Tony finished with 22 points, 7 assists and just 1 turnover; while it wasn’t a triple-double, it was a nice game from Tony. Tiago scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes; I wish Popovich had played him closer to 35 minutes. Tim Duncan was fantastic. Tim had 22 points, 21 rebounds and 6 blocks. It’s a shame that the Spurs wasted such a great performance by Tim.
Watching Paul Milsap play depresses me. Do you ever watch him and think, “That’s what DeJuan should be?” Milsap had 24 points on 15 shots, 12 rebounds and 5 assists. He’s simply efficient. DeJuan was scoreless while missing four shots but did pull down three rebounds. His line actually sounds better than he played. He looked outmatched on the court. He played like a rookie who wasn’t ready for the speed of the NBA. We need to bench him. I’d rather play Bonner than Blair at this point. Yes, it’s come to this.
That last Jazz possession is still bothering me. What was said in the timeout? “Mo, get the ball, waste time and shoot a low percentage shot against the Spurs' best one on one defender. I know you've played poorly and Hayward is on fire, but let's just go with this. Overtime on three, one, two three….”
The Spurs went for the win tonight. Pop did not lessen anyone's minutes in preparation for tomorrow night’s TNT game against the Blazers. Tony, Tim and Manu played 36, 33 and 28 minutes, respectively. We’ll see who suits up tomorrow night. Regardless, I think it’s fair to say that if Restgate had not occurred, Pop would choose to at least sit Tim, if not all three. We’ll see what Pop decides. It’ll be interesting either way.
I assume this recap will make you angry, and rightfully so. However, please keep in mind that this is a San Antonio Spurs blog for all your Manu loving San Antonio Spurs news. It’s written in a biased manner because it’s for a biased audience. Let us sulk in peace.
Thanks in advance,
-- A fan of the team that lost to your team.
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