The Spurs went into Salt Lake City tonight to play the already-in-full-tanking-mode Utah Jazz, who ranked at the bottom of the league in a ridiculous amount of categories through their first nine games. Here's a list of the categories where they rank in the bottom three in the league:
Points per game (Last)
Offensive Rating (Last)
Defensive Rating (29th)
Margin of Victory (Last at -11.5)
Effective FG percentage (29th)
Turnover percentage (28th)
Defensive rebounding percentage (28th)
I'll stop there because you get the point, but there are many more. It can't all be that bad, can it? Well, these are the categories that the Jazz don't completely suck at.
Offensive rebounding percentage (3rd)
Opponent's 3-pt percentage (12th)
I didn't stop early this time. That is the entire list.
The Jazz got their first win on Wednesday, when they managed to beat the feisty Pelicans in SLC despite turning the ball over 21 times. FirstName LastName had a good shooting night, and the Jazz came into tonight 1-8.
The Spurs on the other hand have been rolling, with their offense flowing in the past week even with Tim Duncan's shooting struggles. Combine the Spurs' offense and their excellent defense, and this game had blow-out written all over it.
But this is the NBA and how it looks on paper isn't always how it happens in reality. This game was tightly contested in the middle two quarters, and it looked like the San Antonio might not be able to climb out of the big hole they dug themselves into in the first.
The Spurs came out playing pretty sloppy basketball with an array of bad passes, questionable shots, careless Manu Ginobili passes, and they were unable to match the energy level of the Jazz. FirstName LastName couldn't miss, hitting all three of his shots, including two from deep. Even the good looks weren't falling, and the Jazz had a 29-16 lead at the end of the first, shooting 52% and holding the Spurs to 32% from the field. The Jazz also killed the Spurs 18-8 in rebounds.
The Spurs remembered how to play basketball in the second, but Derrick Favors had a monster first half with 10 points and 15 rebounds. The Spurs shots started falling, but they still couldn't secure enough boards as the Jazz upped their rebounding advantage to 31-19.
Duncan and Derrick Favors had a battle most of the night. Favors had a great game with 20-18 while Timmy kinda sorta broke out of his shooting slump, going 7-16 from the field and grabbing nine rebounds to go along with his three blocks on a foulless night.
Every time the Spurs looked like they may be turning the corner in this one, the Jazz responded well. Then the fourth quarter started. The Spurs looked like the squad we know and love, and they put on an incredible performance. The passes were sharp, threes were finding the bottom of the net for the first time all night, and their defense was tight. Within a couple of minutes the Spurs had a three point lead, and the game was put away by the middle of the quarter. This was what I expected to see all night.
Tony Parker continued his ridiculous trend of taking over the final 12 minutes, and at this point you can just about pencil him in for a monster fourth. The Spurs cruised through the last half of the quarter and won by a comfortable nine points.
The Spurs get a much needed four day break before they face the Boston Celtics at home on Wednesday.
You might think that the Spurs have had an easy schedule so far. It has actually been the 12th hardest, and they had to play three back-to-backs in their first nine games. 9-1 is phenomenal, and the Spurs pulled out a couple of close games, like great teams do. They may not look stellar yet, but you can feel optimistic about the first 10 games.
The Jazz's best player so far this season, Gordan Hayward, struggled from the field all night, finishing 5-23 from the field and an icy 1-7 from deep.
After being outrebounded by 15 over the first three quarters of the game the Spurs hustled and outrebounded the Jazz by eight in the fourth. Over the first three, the difference in the game was rebounding, as the Spurs were winning every other category on the night.
Tim Duncan made a step in the right direction in terms of his shooting. It wasn't an outstanding performance, but he mixed in a couple of shots (with some arc) to go along with several still-flat ones. He looks good in all other facets of the game and his shot will come around. I have no fear.
The Jazz impressed me with their desire tonight. I had them firmly in tank-mode and didn't expect them to come out so energized. Their great fanbase deserves effort from their team, and tonight they got it.
Charles Barkley acknowledged that he made a mistake about the Spurs last night. He said that he had to put the Spurs in the "top two or three in the West" after putting them at least fifth to start the season. Chuck is still on my list of "unreasonable Spurs doubters," but that's something, I guess...
For the opponent's perspective go to the always great SLC Dunk.
More from Pounding The Rock:
- Morning Rehash: Symphonic Spurs Find the Right Note Late Versus Jazz
- It's safe to say that Marco Belinelli is a Spur
- J.R. Wilco talks about how the Spurs gelled against the Knicks on The Phil Naessens Show
- Pop Nots: The top ten questions that Gregg Popovich should never be asked
- Do starting lineups have to be permanent?