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Jazz over Spurs - Morning Rehash: Nothing's easy in Utah

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Visiting teams have always struggled to win in Utah, and it's not just because of the altitude. The Energy Solution Arena's game-day atmosphere is second to none, and is hostile territory to any outsider.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

When I was a sophomore in high school, I moved from San Antonio, Texas to Salt Lake City, Utah. My family had taken a job there, so I had to say goodbye to my friends, pack up, and move to a completely new place.

To be quite honest, when I first got there, I hated it. I didn't mesh with the kids in school as well as I did in San Antonio. I thought all of my classmates were weird and stupid, and in retrospect, they probably thought the same of me. The weather was cold and wet, and there was a depressing blanket of snow everywhere. There were no taquerias to be found. It was culture shock at it's finest, and it was awful.

The only redeeming factor was that I was still with my family. They tried their best to help me adjust, but it was taking a while for that to happen. My family noticed as much, so they bought tickets for us all of us to see the Spurs play the Jazz the next time they were in town. They knew that even though I was having a difficult time, basketball was a way they could cheer me up.

Seeing a Jazz game at Energy Solutions Arena (formerly known as the Delta Center) as a fan of the opposing team is a  spectacle.

Before getting up into the arena, we had to park a couple blocks away and make trek among the masses along the snow-filled roads, and up to the entrance, where there was navy and baby blue everywhere; all of which let me know that I was not in friendly confines so long as my Tim Duncan jersey was on my back.

After finding our seats, we had time before the game to take in the pregame atmosphere. We were in the lower bowl, so we had a good view to see how the seats shot up straight once the upper deck began. As a result, there was a louder, more compact, and more intimate setting than I had ever experienced at the AT&T Center.

During the game, the fans were relentless. A group of Jazz fans sitting behind me were intent on bickering with me all game, thanks to my Duncan jersey. The entire arena provided non-stop cheering when the Jazz scored, and non-stop booing and calling for traveling whenever a player with a black jersey touched the ball. The entirety of Jazz Nation seemed to be packed into the house; and they were all-in on their squad.

That kind of electric environment makes it difficult for a visiting team. During the game I went to, the Spurs came out on top, thanks in large part to the Red Mamba, Matt Bonner, going 6-7 from deep and scoring 20 points.

But on Tuesday, that  energy gave the Jazz a boost they needed to knock off the Spurs. Utah always had one more play to make, while San Antonio had trouble keeping up, making one mental error after another. And while the Spurs could have played better, the wild setting makes their off play somewhat understandable.

I never fully embraced my time in Utah, but that game I attended gave me a new respect for a lot of people that I had yet to fully understand, and made me try and bridge the disconnect between myself and them. There's no doubt that after a loss like Tuesday's, San Antonio's respect for the up-and-coming Jazz has grown as well, as Utah continues to try and close the gap to get on the Spurs' level.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

"Anybody got any questions about the game, or stupid, controversial stuff?"

--Gregg Popovich, via Dan McCarney

The "stupid, controversial stuff" Popovich is talking about is his ejection early in the 3rd quarter, after lashing out to a referee over a perceived missed call. This marks Pop's first ejection since January 17th.

GAME MVP

Tim Duncan - 23 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 assists

Yawn. Just another 20/10 game from the GOAT PUFF, right? In addition to his steady scoring and rebounding, Duncan was tremendous on the defensive end, blocking and altering shots all night long. It seemed as if any time he was matched up with Derrick Favors, he blew up the possession.

NUMBERS ON THE BOARD

  • If you look the basic box score from the game, the numbers lie a bit. The Spurs won nearly every statistical category, and the shooting percentages were such that if you hadn't watched the game, you'd have thought the Spurs won. The numbers from tonight don't illustrate how thoroughly the Jazz outplayed the Spurs in nearly every facet of the game.

GAME NOTES

  • As I said before, the Spurs were outplayed for the bulk of the game. The only reason they had even a remote chance of winning at the end was because Utah started to miss free throws, which allowed the Spurs to cut the lead late. Defensively, most of the team played awfully. Defensive rotations were slow all night, and even though Duncan provided excellent rim protection, no one rotated to his man to prevent quick dump-offs for an easy buckets.

  • Although the Spurs played badly, you still have to tip your cap to how well Utah looked. They did everything they had to to win. They found soft spots in San Antonio's defense, and exploited them repeatedly. The entire Jazz team moved the ball well, as all but one player who got minutes recorded an assist. Apart from some sloppy turnovers, Gordon Hayward looked every bit the emerging star, getting 20 points on only 13 shots. Getting a win over a contending team like the Spurs is a big deal for a young squad, no matter how badly San Antonio played.