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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz

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The Spurs will attempt an encore of last month's blowout win over Utah as they look to improve to a Duncanian 21-0 at home.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
January 6, 2016, 7:30 p.m. Spurs Time

I don't listen to too much jazz music, but from what I understand there's quite a bit of improvising involved. Someone starts things off with a toot of the trumpet, while their partner responds with a deft splash on the hi-hat. Then a rattle of a tamborine, someone else going crazy on the kazoo, and bop, boom, blammo -- you're jamming!

Improvisation has played an unexpected role in Utah's ill-fated 2015-16 season. From the loss of Dante Exum (ACL) in the summer to Rudy Gobert (knee), Alec Burks (ankle) and Derrick Favors (back) missing extended time, an ensemble that once had sights on playing into May is doing its best to keep the beat -- which is especially unfortunate given how open the Western Conference playoff picture is at the moment.

Quin Snyder's done a formidable job keeping his short-handed team in the hunt for a postseason berth. With his frontcourt gutted, Snyder's turned to rookie Trey Lyles and third-year center Jeff Withey to anchor the starting lineup. He's continued to roll with Brazilian Raul Neto at the point, leaving former lottery pick Trey Burke to provide scoring and playmaking off the bench, and Rodney Hood, while not all that consistent, has put up some strong performances in his sophomore year.

Withey's been a real bright spot after toiling in relative obscurity in New Orleans for two years. He's not a big leaper but the seven-footer can use his length and good positioning to disrupt things defensively and has had at least two blocks and a steal in each of his last six games. He's also got a +9 net rating per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Reference.

Utah's Monday-night loss included a late no-call for the Jazz that would've tied it with under a minute left, but they also gave away a double-digit lead in the second half, and it's a game that a more complete Jazz team would've likely held onto and won. The loss stings even more since the Rockets and Jazz are both jockeying for position as the seventh and eighth seeds of the WC, respectively.

The last meeting between San Antonio and Utah was one of the more dominating Spurs performances in a year packed full of them. Kawhi Leonard erased Gordon Hayward from the earth (a minus-42 in just 22 minutes) and the Spurs ran the lead up to 46 at one point, with no starter playing more than 25 minutes. And that was a team that still had Burks and Favors.

We live in a Kevin Garnett world where anything is possible, but most signs point to another sizeable win for San Antonio, even if Tim or Manu join Tony as a DNP. Pop, as we know, has few qualms with a bit of improvisation himself.

** Update: LaMarcus Aldridge (rest) will sit tonight. **

Matchup to watch: Bench units. The lineups at the turn of the first and second quarters could create major separation for the Spurs -- or they could allow Utah to hang around. If San Antonio's reserves come in strong, we should be seeing even more of them (and, yes, Boban) in the second half.


San Antonio Spurs

(Record: 30-6)

Utah Jazz


January 6, 2016

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

7:30 PM CDT



Ray McCallum


Raul Neto

Danny Green


Rodney Hood

Kawhi Leonard


Gordon Hayward

LaMarcus Aldridge*


Trey Lyles

Tim Duncan


Jeff Withey

Game prediction: Spurs by 21.

For the Jazz fans' perspective, visit SLC Dunk.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.