San Antonio Spurs @ Utah JazzEnergy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
December 14, 2013, 8:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
For the second time this week, the San Antonio Spurs face a second game of a back-to-back, this time traveling to Utah to take on the Jazz. The bottom-dwelling Jazz are still struggling on both ends of the court, despite knocking off a new-look Sacramento Kings team 122-101 on Wednesday. The Jazz will be on their own back-to-back as they took on Denver on the road on Friday night.
The issues for the Jazz remain the same as they were the first time the Spurs took on Utah this season. In that November 15 meeting, the Spurs shutdown a putrid Jazz scoring offense and won the game 91-82. Boris Diaw led the way for the Spurs, but what Utah's Derrick Favors was able to do against San Antonio in the first meeting should be cause for alarm.
Favors finished with 20 points, 18 rebounds, three blocks, three steals, and two assists in the loss. Utah actually led that game 67-60 leading into the fourth quarter, but San Antonio began to attack the basket, which opened up the lane and freed shooters in the corners. A three-point play by Tony Parker, two three-pointers by Danny Green, and one by Diaw early opened the floodgates for a fourth-quarter Jazz collapse. Gordon Hayward scored 15, and Richard Jefferson finished with 14 in the loss.
The Jazz were 1-9 after the loss to San Antonio and sat at 5-19 entering Friday's matchup against Denver. Utah ranks 26th in the league in points per game and rebounds per game, 24th in the league in assists, and 27th in points allowed. Simply put, this team is not good. Conversely, San Antonio ranks in the top-10 in each of those categories, except for rebounds, where the Spurs rank 16th in the NBA.
And while Favors is still inching his way into front-court superiority, Hayward is still the straw that stirs the offensive drink for Utah, as he is currently. averaging a team-high 16.7 points and 4.6 assists. Hayward also leads the team in steals, but the lack of perimeter scoring behind him cripples Utah's offense. Outside of Hayward, the Jazz's backcourt consists of players like Trey Burke and Alec Burks. All you really need to know is that Richard Jefferson is counted on for scoring.
The inside presence of Favors is promising for the future, but he is not yet ready to demand the ball or command the kinds of double-teams in the lane that free up shooters. San Antonio can afford for Favors to have another career night because no one outside of Hayward is a consistent threat on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively, Utah lacks the athleticism in the frontcourt and backcourt to keep quality guards out of the lane. This has put a lot of pressure on Favors and Enes Kanter to rotate and help defensively, but that has forced Utah's two best post players to enter foul trouble early in many games. It is a double-edged sword that Utah has yet to find the solution to fix. San Antonio will use the same strategy that helped them trounce Utah in the fourth quarter of the first matchup to coast to victory.
Matchup to watch: Without a healthy Tiago Splitter, I will be watching how San Antonio defends Favors in the paint. If San Antonio can keep Favors off of the boards, his offensive game becomes much more limited. Blocking out on Favors may be the real key of the game.
Jazz perspective can be found here: SLC Dunk
Game Prediction: Spurs by 12.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher. NBA League Pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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