Tony Parker missed this game as he is nursing a strained hammy. The ball handling duties were pretty spread around without the speedy Frenchman, with Boris Diaw and Manu Ginobili doing plenty of distributing for the good guys. They finished with five and eight assists, respectively. That wasn't enough as their ineffective scoring hurt the Spurs.
There was plenty of sloppy passing form the Spurs early. It's always annoying to watch the team turn the ball over, but it's especially so when it's against a team that isn't very good. To add to that, I missed the last two games and it's never fun to catch a loss on your first game back. I don't know if it was overlooking the opponent or playing down to them, but the Spurs weren't sharp in this one at all. There were moments when I thought they might turn the corner, but the Jazz hung tight the entire night and pulled out a nice win for their team.
Manu started 0-for-8 from the field and a had couple of turnovers. It was pretty ugly stuff from our favorite Argentine for most of this game even with the assists. He committed four turnovers to go with his eight assists which isn't bad exactly, but when you add in his terrible shooting it combined for a disappointing night. Gino wasn't even close on most of his attempts, he was short on most of them, and it became one of the worst nights from the field for the veteran as he finished 3-of-17. That's so bad that it's almost funny. The Spurs lost though, so not quite.
The Jazz took a 38-33 lead in the second quarter which was followed by a 7-0 Spurs run. The run featured an interesting sequence where Matt Bonner had a layup rejected by Trevor Booker followed by Booker being so pumped up that he would have overshot the rim by three feet had there not been a backboard. Off the miss, Tim Duncan grabbed his seventh rebound and Matty hit a three on the other end. By the half the Spurs trailed the Jazz by three.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair for the most part but by the time it ended the Jazz had extended their one-point lead to five after a 34-point outburst. The Spurs scored 29 of their own in the quarter but the defense left much to be desired since the good guys have played solid defense for the first quarter of the season. Depending on if you subscribe to the NBA's efficiency estimates or Basketball-Reference's the Spurs are either 3rd or 2nd in defensive rating heading into this one. Giving up 100 to an average offensive team (17th or 16th in offensive rating) isn't so good.
With just 10 seconds left in the third quarter Gregg Popovich picked up a pair of technicals after being enraged by some perceived slight by the officials and Ettore Messina got to finish his third game as the "head coach" of the Spurs. The play that caused the legend on the Spurs sideline to lose it on the official was a Manu Ginobili drive and shot attempt that resulted in a foul on Aron Baynes during the ensuing fight for the rebound. The Jazz were in the bonus, Rodney Hood hit both his free throws and Gordon Hayward made both of the technical free throws to give Utah a 78-71 lead. Manu perhaps benefited a bit from Pop's tirade as he drew a questionable foul on the next Spurs possession. A split pair of free throws made it a 78-72 lead for Utah heading into the final period.
The fourth started well enough for the Spurs with Green, Beli and Duncan combining for eight points to just three from the Jazz on a Dante Exum desperation 30-footer. 81-80 Jazz with nine minutes left. Two freebies, an Enes Kantor midrange jumper and then a steal by Kantor of Boris Diaw that led to a Jazz bucket gave the Jazz six straight to push their advantage to 87-80, seven minutes left.
Unfortunately, the Spurs scored just two points from the 9:12 mark to the 3:17 mark of the quarter while the Jazz got 12 from their guys. Kawhi made a layup and Danny scored on a 2-on-1 to give the Spurs some life, but the Jazz found a dunk on the other end to stretch the game back out to three possessions.
In the end the Spurs couldn't force enough stops to get back in the game and the three point shooting was absolutely terrible from the Spurs. The free-throw shooting, which has been much improved for the franchise over the last two or three seasons, was also awful tonight as the Spurs hit just 14 of their 23 attempts.
Give credit to the Jazz, they played hard and responded well to a small, late push from the Spurs. They did get a kind call from the refs with the lead at just four with 30-ish seconds left as the Jazz were granted a timeout without possession of the ball after the Spurs caused all kinds of trouble in the backcourt. The Spurs didn't deserve to win the game, but if you're looking for something to steam about take a look at the play. It also appeared to be an eight-second violation as the shot clock read 16. I'm not exactly sure what the rule is, but if you start at 24 and count back, 16 would indeed be eight. I don't think the officiating decided this game at all, but that was a frustrating sequence that could have led to an improbable comeback for SA.
Utah snapped their nine-game losing streak and your Spurs fall to 15-6 for the season. The Spurs don't usually lose too many games to lesser competition and they already have losses to the Nets, Jazz and Pelicans this season. I bet they didn't have three losses to teams that were .500 or worse all of last season.
Check out our friends over at the very good SLC Dunk for the Jazz fan's perspective of the game.
- Aron Baynes was limited to just 12 minutes because the Big Banger picked up five fouls in that short time. He did pick up a rebound every two minutes and hit his lone field goal attempt -- another midrange jumper for the big Aussie.
- There's not much to like about this game, but if you're a Duncan fan like me, you enjoyed Big Fun scoring 23 on 16 shots, grabbing 14 boards and adding two assists, three steals and four blocks. Talk about filling up the stat sheet. I swear he could play at his current level for another three years. There's just no sign of him slowing down and it's remarkable.
- Kawhi Leonard grabbed five boards, dished five assists and swiped five steals. He also scored 16 for the Spurs. It's not like he was close to a 5x5 as he didn't get any blocks, but let's be real -- The Hand is awesome.
- The Spurs hit just four of their 20 attempts from downtown. Just after I thought that they had solved their shooting problems they drop that line down. Not cool.
- Matt Bonner finished with a team-high plus-6 with Ginobili. He played a good all-around first half, but only saw seven minutes in the second. His shot wasn't falling, but he looked good out there. The box won't show it but he had good energy and played smart while he was on the floor.
- Cory Joseph started for Tony Parker but was largely non-existent in this one. He hit three of his six shots and didn't tally an assist or rebound in his time on the floor.
- Enes Kantor had a nice game for the Jazz. He'll have to do something really amazing to replace him doing "the worm" as my first thought when I think of him, but he played quite well on Tuesday night. He finished with 12 and 15 and was a game-high plus-13 in his 31 minutes.
- Rudy Gobert is really tall.
In their words:
We were sort of flat at the beginning, not as energetic as we should have been against a young, athletic team. Still we managed to be just one down playing terribly. Things happen when you give the other team confidence and they see the opportunity to beat the champion. They were excited, they played a better game and they were more aggressive and they made big shots.
The Spurs will fly back to San Antonio tonight as they'll host the New York Knicks tomorrow night at the AT&T Center at 7:30 Spurs time.