Can you imagine if all Spurs games were like this, if they actually played to their late 90's-early 00's stereotype? I'd probably take up a different hobby, to be honest. In a game that had all the offensive execution of the NFC Championship Game and all the drama of the AFC Championship Game, the Spurs wiped out the Jazz at the AT&T Center, leading wire-to-wire and never being remotely threatened. And it was just as exciting as I'm making it sound.
Lord knows we're spoiled as Spurs fans. There's been much grousing and then grousing about the reporting of the waiving of, the team's 15th man in Austin Daye. Prior to the game, after the team announced that forward JaMychal Green was signed to a 10-day contract after starring for the Austin Spurs, coach Gregg Popovich quickly cut off any questions about the team's first personnel move since the draft, saying "He's the 15th guy. Don't get real excited. We're talking about the 15th guy on the team. I wouldn't over-analyze it too much."
His perspective is certainly the correct one in this case, but games such as these certainly bring out the spoiled, entitled Spurs fan in me. Yeah, it was a win, it was a blowout win, but maaaaan was that hard to watch.
The Spurs played great defense, to be sure, holding the Jazz to 33.3 percent shooting overall, closing out on shooters when necessary and scrambling and deflecting balls all game long, limiting Utah to 22 points or fewer in each of the four quarters, even garbage time. Not only was it the fewest points they've allowed this season, but actually the fewest since Washington only managed 67 against them on Feb. 21, 2009 in a 98-67 Spurs wipe-out.
They weren't that good, though. Nobody is, as Pop admitted afterward. "It's never just your defense," he said. "I think they had a tough night shooting-wise too."
The rims might have been screwed a bit too tight, like at your Jr. High outdoor playground, and neither team could get a roll all game. It was amazing at first, then maddening, and eventually all you could do about it was laugh and hope that someone gets around to fixing them by the next home game.
The Jazz only have 14 wins --including one against the Spurs at home-- but they shouldn't be this bad. There's a lot of talent on the club, starting with Gordon Hayward, who had a tough night against the indomitable Kawhi Leonard (the one dramatic moment of the game was Leonard flexing his hand after a fall, which caused Pop to reveal afterward that he was "scared to death") but is otherwise having a very good bounce-back season. There's Rudy Gobert, whom Utah drafted one spot ahead of the Spurs two summers ago (San Antonio was forced to select Gobert's countryman Livio Jean-Charles instead). Gobert is developing rapidly and had a career-high 18 rebounds against the Spurs, as well as four blocks and he led the team in scoring for the first time, with 13 points, making Enes Kanter eminently expendable. The Jazz also have Derrick Favors, who continues to improve incrementally plus youngsters like Trey Burke, Rodney Hood, Dante Exum and Alec Burks, who's out with a left shoulder injury. I'm not sure there are any future stars in that group, but the only one that really looks in over his head is Burke, who just can't shoot. They're just stuck in the wrong conference, a bunch of callow youngsters playing with men night in and night out. You almost feel sorry for them.
But they are still the Utah Jazz and there are too many bitter memories of Karl Malone's elbows, so "almost" is as close as we're ever gonna get.
It was the kind of game where 37-year-old Manu Ginobili tied his career-high with four blocks (all in the first half, no less) and you could hardly remember one of them, let alone four. He last accomplished that on Nov. 9, 2009 versus Toronto, in case you were curious.
It was the kind of game where Danny Green scored all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter and you hardly noticed because they increased a 19-point lead into a 28-point lead. (For what it's worth, Green reached a couple of team milestones, becoming the first Spur to nail 100 threes by the 42nd game of the season while also connecting on his 500th career triple for the Spurs, a whopping 129 games quicker than it took Ginobili to get there.)
It was the kind of game where JaMychal Green made his NBA debut, and Pop stuck him in a lineup with Matt Bonner, Aron Baynes and Jeff Ayres. Go get 'em, kid.
It was, in short, an ugly game. It was also the Spurs' first three-game winning streak since they reeled off eight in a row from Nov. 17-Dec. 1. I'm guessing most of you would prefer ugly wins to historic, exciting triple-overtime losses.
3. Tiago Splitter (11 pts)
2. Aron Baynes (23 pts)
1. Kawhi Leonard (45 pts)