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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz

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The Spurs head back to the AT&T Center for a four-game homestand, beginning tonight against a Jazz team that's still without starting center Rudy Gobert.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
December 14, 2015, 7:30 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: FSSW Radio: 1200 AM WOAI

12 up and 12 down -- that's been the story so far for the Spurs in the friendly confines of the AT&T Center where, barring a few exceptions, games haven't stayed close for long.

Part of the reason is that San Antonio's league-leading defense is allowing five less points at home than on the road. To compare: the Philadelphia 76ers average 91 points per game; Spurs' visitors are averaging less than 86 per game.

To their credit, the visiting Utah Jazz have maintained a top-five defense, too -- although the numbers have slid amid the prolonged absence of their keystone, center Rudy Gobert. Gobert went down with an MCL sprain at the beginning of the month, leaving a huge void under the basket for a team that closed last season with the best D in the league.

The Jazz have surrendered over 100 points in four of their last six games, including 114 to the Kings and 119 in an overtime win against the Pacers. They've gone 2-4 in that span as they try to make the most of a frontcourt that was already thin before Gobert was injured.

Stepping up in his absence (and sliding into the center slot) has been Derrick Favors, who's continued to build upon a solid season. Favors is a guy who's never made the type of noticeable leap many hoped/expected for a high draft pick, but he's improved upon his game every year.

The other big-man spot has been a problem for Coach Quin Snyder. The team, already thin in the frontcourt, is now having to lean heavily on rookie Trey Lyles and veteran Trevor Booker. Booker got the start in Gobert's first game off but has since been supplanted by Lyles, and neither is a reliable starter on a nightly basis.

The Jazz are coming into town from Oklahoma City, whom they've played twice in three nights. In last night's overtime loss, they turned to a three-wing, no-point-guard starting lineup of Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks, sending point guard Raul Neto to the bench. It's a bold strategy, but it makes some sense for a team that's wing-strong and possesses players with atypical talents for their positions who can all handle the ball. Hayward is a very good playmaker at small forward and Burks is adept at getting to the rim and drawing fouls. The trio combined for 66 points in a game they gave up in the second half.

Utah's a young team, but we can still expect them to be a little weary after chasing Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant around for two games in a row, which could give a fresh San Antonio team the chance to build a lead early and pull away as the game goes on.

Matchup to watch: Kawhi against Hayward. The Jazz will have to rely more on an inside-out game and that should mean plenty of touches for their best playmaker in Hayward. He's elite at creating his own shot and scoring in isolation, but Kawhi has a knack for complicating matters.

San Antonio Spurs (20-5)

Utah Jazz (10-12)

December 14, 2015

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

7:30 PM CST

TV: FSSW

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Raul Neto*

Danny Green

SG

Rodney Hood

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Gordon Hayward

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Trey Lyles

Tim Duncan

C

Derrick Favors


Game prediction: Spurs by 16.

For the Jazz fans' perspective, visit SLC Dunk.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.