The Spurs follow up their win in the Big Easy by taking on the Utah Jazz at home this Wednesday. A few members of the band will be sidelined, but that shouldn't stop San Antonio from playing some smooth music on the hardwood against one of the league's bottom-feeders.
Stampler calls out the T-Pups
I just discovered that Nikola Pekovic was born one day before my sister. Bad news for her: They have little in common, financially. Good news for her: They have even less in common physically.
San Antonio will be short-handed again, with Tiago Splitter and Danny Green both expected to miss the next month of play or so. Manu Ginobili returned to action against New Orleans, but looked a bit rusty. Tonight will be a good chance for him to shake that off before Friday's anticipated matchup against the Blazers. The Spurs are 30-8 and winners of five straight and would like to secure win number six early in this one.
For what it's worth the Jazz have won 6 of their last 10 games, and their 13-26 record isn't all that horrific if you recall they started the year 4-19. Their last three games also include victories over the Denver Nuggets and the Thunder. Still, they have yet to show much consistency, and stringing multiple wins hasn't been easy for them thus far.
Much of the Jazz's good play recently can be attributed to rookie point guard Trey Burke, who had missed the beginning of the season with a fractured finger. Burke has brought some much-needed stability and leadership to the point position and is among the front-runners for this year's Rookie of the Year award.
Gordon Hayward has sat out the team's last two games, but is expected to play tonight. Hayward's having a breakout year, with averages of 17.1PPG, 5.4RPG and 4.9APG, but his shooting percentages show that he probably shouldn't your team's primary offensive option. The Jazz's other building block for the future, Derrick Favors, is showing improvement in his game. He's still just 22 years old, and continues to get by on his athleticism more than anything else.
At the shooting guard spot is Burke's homophonic backcourt partner, Alec Burks, another promising youngster who's capable of putting up a goose egg in the scoring column one night and then going for over 30 the next -- as he did on Monday against the Nuggets (34 points, 5 assists). Burks does most of his work by getting into the paint and to the line, but the Spurs can contain him by turning him into a jumpshooter.
Marvin Williams has been getting the start at PF for the Jazz, which means Tiago won't be missed too much by the Spurs. Boris Diaw should start once again and get another crack at defending a big who prefers to play along the perimeter.
Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin has received criticism for neither playing lineups that are conducive to winning or, more importantly, developing all the young talent his team has acquired. At the center of this is his giving heavy minutes to guys like Williams and Spurs castaway Richard Jefferson.
The Spurs may be limping a bit these days, but this one shouldn't be close going into the final period. The Jazz are a team that struggle to play efficiently and, as a result, are among the worst in the league at scoring the ball. San Antonio's ball movement and outside shooting should open up holes in the lane, and a 'B' effort in the first half should be enough to help them put this game away early.
Kawhi Leonard has stepped up in recent games, and I'd look for him to keep trending in that direction, especially with the team needing his added contributions. In the past four, he's averaged nearly 15 points a game while shooting 68.6% from the field and 5 of 8 from three.
This game is the first of four in a row at home for the Spurs. After tonight, San Antonio gets another test against a top-tier team when the Blazers come to town. Will the Silver and Black finally win a game against an elite team, or will they continue to give experts a reason to count them out?
Matchup to watch: Duncan-Favors will be interesting, as will watching Burke chase Tony along the baseline and around screens, but I'm going to look in the second half when we should see the Spurs bench emptied against the Jazz young guys. I'm hoping for a heavy dose of Aron Baynes against former top-three pick Enes Kanter. Watching the big banger unleashed is one of my garbage-time pleasures, and should indicate a job well done by the starters.
Key Bench Players
Jazz perspective can be found here: SLC Dunk.
Game Prediction: Spurs by 17.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and 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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