Game 10, @Utah: Spurs 91, Jazz 82 Record: 9-1 1st in Southwest, 1st in West Streak: W-7
As some of you may know, I have a night job that prevents me from watching most Spurs games live. I record them on the DVR and watch and write about them late at night. I'm a grumpy fellow in most circumstances and watching the Spurs are one of my few joys in life, yet even with the knowledge that they won the game, I still wasn't too excited about watching it. Honestly, I'd have probably just saved it for later or skimmed through it if I didn't have to write about it.
So imagine how the fellas felt. A lame, one-game road trip. On a Friday. At freakin' Utah.
The Energy Solutions Arena was half-empty, and those who bothered to show up didn't exactly go out of their way to make up for the ones who didn't. The barn was dead and the Spurs, already calcified by a schedule that called for them to play their tenth game in 17 nights -- in seven different arenas -- could hardly be blamed for looking and playing sluggish and uninspired. Yes, they had the worst quarter of their young season in the opening 12 minutes versus the Jazz. To me, it was almost affirming of their humanity. Hey, these guys aren't robots after all. Who knew? They actually get bored and listless during the same stretches of the season that we do. If we were on the Spurs, we'd all be looking forward to the next four days too and mopey as hell about having to fly out to Utah to freeze our hineys off in that morgue in guise of a gym.
That's the double-edged beauty of being a team as good as San Antonio and playing a squad as putrid as the Jazz. While it's almost a given that a combination of fatigue, apathy and inertia will happen in games such as these, all the Spurs really need is one good quarter to prevail. You always hear players and coaches utter cliches after close losses about needing to play the full 48 minutes rather than 36, 24 or 12.
Friday night proved that sometimes 12 minutes is plenty.
All things considered, it was a perfect game for Gregg Popovich. It added another tally in the left side of the ledger while providing him plenty of film to badger his charges about, as far as the importance of rebounding, effort, energy and not taking your opponents lightly. The worst thing in the world would've been another 30-point win and a locker room full of guys thinking they're god's gift to basketball. Besides a loss, that is.
Make no mistake. When it came down to it, Pop wanted to win the game very much, reducing his rotation to seven for all intents and purposes in the second half like it was the Finals. I don't think the team's winning streak or the idea of attaining home court advantage means anything to him, especially this early into the campaign. But I imagine Pop's inner monologue was something like, "Everybody made the trip, I haven't rested anyone, we've got four days off, and there's no way we're going to lose to frickin' Utah."
And they didn't.
Standard Pop Quote:
"What was good is to see the work that Utah did on the boards and how we have to have one through five rebound in those situations. That's what kept them in the game, the offensive boards. They had 12 (second-chance points) in the first half. That's what they do. That was a good lesson for us. There is no stop until you rebound."
By The Numbers:
17,530: The paid attendance (which is misleading, as there were more people in the cast of "Big Love" than there were in that arena).
10: Second quarter points for Diaw, who averaged 5.8 per game last season.
29: First quarter points for the Jazz, a season-high for most-allowed by the Spurs in the opening period.
16: First quarter points for the Spurs, a season-low.
+16: The game-high figure for Green, in just 23:12.
2: Free throw attempts by Ginobili, his first trip to the charity stripe since the fourth game of the season at Denver.
9: Rebounds for Ginobili, his most in a game since Mar. 2, 2011 at Cleveland.
Sequence of the Game:
Down 69-63 a minute into the fourth quarter, Danny Green took the initiative and dribbled around Marvin Williams into a quick-release corner three. The Land Walrus went airborne to swat a drive by Enes Kanter, and it led to a fast break by Parker where he did this incredible spin move off a reverse pivot (like something from those phony baloney Chris Paul press conference commercials, except this was real and involved a player who's been past the second round of the playoffs) for an and-1 courtesy of a RJ bonehead touch-foul. Then, following a steal by Diaw, Parker drove the length of the baseline and shoveled the ball over to Green in the corner while simultaneously boxing out Green's defender, and it gave "The Tarheel" enough room to shoot another three. A 9-0 explosion in 47 seconds and the Spurs never relinquished the lead.
Pop was doing a lot of funky stuff with his lineups tonight, some of it no doubt due to the team's four-day break coming up. But it was weird nonetheless. Diaw checked in for Splitter at the 3:40 mark of the first quarter and played the rest of the half, 15:20 straight, while the Brazilian big man sat the pine. Then, Splitter played the entire third quarter. Even weirder, after Ginobili played for only 5:07 in the middle of the third quarter, Pop had both he and Parker play all but the closing seconds of the fourth. It must have been the longest stretch Tony and Manu have played together in years, and Tim played the first 8:27 of that as well. In a shocking coincidence, The Big Three were +17 in that 8:27. Finally, Belinelli, whom I praised to the heavens yesterday, only played the same 5:07 block as Ginobili in the third quarter, didn't dent the stat sheet in any way during that time, and didn't check back into the game at all, playing a rather uneventful 13 minutes on the night.
Tweets of the Night:
RJ REVENGE GAME!— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) November 16, 2013
If Richard Jefferson had shot like this for #Spurs he'd still be a Spur; he's got 8 in 1st qtr.— Mike Monroe (@Monroe_SA) November 16, 2013
(More like if he gave a crap like this he'd still be a Spur)
spurs bloggers: next time SAS leads for all but 11 seconds in a four game span, don't mention it in every other paragraph of every piece.— Aaron McGuire (@docrostov) November 16, 2013
BoBocop.... (I'll show myself out)— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) November 16, 2013
Good Lord, Favors. I haven't seen Duncan this befuddled with a #Jazz big man since Ostertag in summer league.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) November 16, 2013
Richard Jefferson has outscored Kawhi Leonard 12-2. But he did just throw the worst alley-oop pass in the history of the Utah Jazz.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) November 16, 2013
Someone needs to find the Space Jam aliens that took Timmy's offense.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) November 16, 2013
(That wasn't nice)
I'm pretty sure that's more right-handed dribbles that Manu's ever done consecutively in his life. Spurs up by 7 all of a sudden!— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 16, 2013
Jazz hands are for sissies.— Gregory Popovich (@FakeCoachPop) November 16, 2013
Your Three Stars:
3. Tim Duncan (13 pts): 7-of-16 shooting doesn't sound so great, but it's positively scorching compared to Duncan's last three games. He also pulled down nine boards and had three blocks. Mostly I liked the feistiness. Wouldn't life be great if you automatically did your job like 40 percent better every time you cut your hair?
2. Boris Diaw (13 pts): Two straight silver medals for the full-figured Frenchman, who rescued the Spurs from their first-half doldrums with 10 second quarter points en route to 17 on the night, his most ever as a Spur. There's no doubt about it, Diaw looks hungry out there. For a lucrative new contract? For a redemptive championship ring? For cake? Yes.
1. Tony Parker (24 pts): Two Frenchies on the medal stand, some welcome news on an otherwise dour sports day for Les Bleus, whose soccer team dropped the first leg of their two-legged playoff for a World Cup at Ukraine, 2-0. They're very much in danger of not getting an invite to Brazil. While France hasn't had an effective passer on the pitch since Zinedine Zidane or a steady finisher since Thierry Henry, Parker does both superbly for the Spurs, and had 14 points and two assists in the fourth quarter at Utah. (Incidentally, Parker and Henry are close pals).
Next Up: Vs. Boston (4-6), Wednesday, Nov. 20: Finally, after a hectic first couple of weeks of the season, the Spurs finally get a few days to catch their collective breath before a home date against the semi-tanking Celtics. Rookie coach Brad Stevens is still trying to figure out his rotation and his players' roles, and it's proving tricky since he's got about nine guys who are all meh, and the other three are worse. Freshman Kelly Olynyk leads the club with a paltry 5.6 rebounds per game, while Jordan Crawford is the make-do point guard with Rajon Rondo sidelined, and he's averaging 4.5 helpers a night. The Celts have five guys scoring between 11 and 16.8 points, led by Jeff Green, and second-year man Jared Sullinger put up a career-high 26 in Friday night's 109-96 home loss to Portland, where no one else did much of anything for Boston. I'm expecting the rested, loose Spurs to come out with a lot of energy and to blow the Celtics out out of the building by something like 24 points.