The Spurs were the busiest team in the NBA to start the season, playing their first five games in just eight nights. It may have been the heavy load to start or some long-forgotten, obscure curse, but San Antonio couldn't push their season to 5-0. You've probably heard by now, but the Spurs have never started a season 5-0 which is really surprising with the commonplace win-streaks the franchise has put together, not to mention the fact that they had Tim Duncan for 19 seasons.
Aside from one magnificent stretch of play in the second quarter most of the team was pretty underwhelming on both ends of the floor Tuesday night. San Antonio gave up great looks to Utah, who took full advantage of what they were given, getting the open shots to drop. And while the Spurs attempted just as many shots as Utah for the game, the Jazz made the Spurs work hard for their shots and limited SA to 43% from the floor and 30% from deep.
Jonathon Simmons got the starting nod in place of the still-out Danny Green, the first time this season that Kyle Anderson didn't start at the two for San Antonio. Simmons was a team-high +5 in the contest despite a rough shooting night (1-7) and an overall line that doesn't exactly wow (2-2-3-0-0.) Juice did have one jump-out-of-your-seat highlight, finishing a lob from Patty Mills with a mean jam that has to be seen.
And, hey, those three assists were nice to see, it's the fourth time this season he hit that mark, something he did just twice in his rookie campaign. He's a work in progress to be sure; after his opening-night explosion Simmons has hit just nine of his 29 attempts, but he did play good defense for stretches and certainly still looks like quite an asset for the Spurs.
The Spurs put up 28 points in the first quarter and hit half of their shots, which is a great start, except that the Jazz hit 72% of their shots and hung 38 on the Spurs. Again, the Utah Jazz dropped 38 on the Spurs in San Antonio in one quarter.
The second started where the first quarter left off and the Jazz built a 47-31 lead with eight and a half left in the half. Utah's defense was particularly impressive, swarming the Spurs and shutting down the inside.
But those Spurs don't shake. Kawhi certainly doesn't shake and San Antonio got it going on the defensive end. Gasol blocked a couple of shots, and the Jazz shooting plummeted back down to earth, helping the Spurs put a 15-0 run together led by a couple of threes and midrange jumpers from Kawhi. Rudy Gobert ended Utah's almost six-minute scoring-drought by splitting a pair of one-eyed free throws after losing a contact lens at the charity stripe.
That was a great stretch of ball from the Spurs but the good times didn't last long. The Jazz steadied themselves and finished the quarter by outscoring San Antonio 7-4 to take a 54-50 lead into the half.
Utah got contributions from their players in uniform (they were missing our friend Boris Diaw along with Alec Burks and probably their best player in Gordon Hayward) and only Derrick Favors finished with a negative +/-. Shelvin Mack (10 points on 5 shots) and Rodney Hood (14 points) led the Jazz in the first half and Utah finished the half shooting 50% from the floor.
The third quarter started off well for the silver and black. On the back of a quick seven points from LaMarcus Aldridge they took a 59-56 lead three minutes into the second half. While they would see one more three point lead midway through the third, that was the best it got for San Antonio. George Hill assisted Trey Lyles and Shelvin Mack on four consecutive Jazz possessions while the Spurs failed to score. The result was a 10-0 run that put San Antonio down 63-70.
The Spurs would get as close as one late in the quarter after the Mills/Simmons alley-oop but that was about it for the Spurs. Utah, led by a brilliant performance from George Hill, put the game away in the fourth. Hill checked back in the game with seven and a half minutes left to play and pretty much by himself turned a two-point game into an eight-point game, scoring 10 points and assisting on a Joe Johnson triple in about three minutes while playing tough defense on the other end.
Credit the Jazz for playing a great game, they had more energy, were tighter and more focused for the vast majority of the game and weathered quite a run from the Spurs. A 15-0 run from the Spurs usually signals the turn of the game, whether it's putting it away for good or just swinging the momentum. Either way, it's tough to win after the silver and black make it that tough for an opponent. Let's hear from the leader:
Overall they outplayed us. - Pop
And with that the Spurs have now lost as many games at home as they did all of last season and fall to 4-1. They are still comfortably atop the Southwest Division, and are the only team above .500. In fact, the once best-division-in-the-association doesn't look so glamorous anymore; the other four teams in the division are a combined 4-11.
San Antonio won't have to wait long for a chance at revenge as they visit the Jazz in their next game on Friday.
Let's end on a positive note, Kawhi Leonard put up 30 for the third time this season and was simply great on both ends of the floor, which is now just what it is. I told my best friend that he could be a 20-8 guy in 2012 and he laughed at me. Looks like we were both wrong; he has no ceiling. It's a joy to watch him play and it's not just the defense and scoring, he can also do this, which is just mind-boggling. LOOK AT ALL THE JAZZ JERSEYS!
This is just a ridiculous sequence by Kawhi pic.twitter.com/YG16YbTTr5— Tom Petrini (@RealTomPetrini) November 2, 2016
- I don't know about you guys, but I was really disappointed to see Boris Diaw in street clothes tonight. I know this might sound crazy, but Bobo might be my third favorite basketball player of all-time. Okay, that does sound crazy, let's pencil him in for fourth.
- Kawhi and LaMarcus scored 56% (51 points) of the Spurs' points on the night while the Spurs bench only scored 26% (24 points).
- 15-for-31: That's what the Jazz shot from deep. That was just the 7th time the Jazz made 15 or more threes in a game in franchise history. It was also just the 7th time in franchise history that the Spurs allowed 15 or more made threes in a game. In fact, no team has ever taken 31 or more threes against the Spurs and shot such a high percentage. So props to both teams for making minor franchise history tonight.
- The Spurs have been great at taking care of the ball this season, giving it away just 11.8 times per contest, and they committed just nine tonight but they weren't able to generate many takeaways either. The Jazz turnovers were limited to just 10 and Dante Exum was responsible for three in his 14 minutes.
The Spurs get a couple of nights off for the first time this season before heading to Salt Lake City to take on the Jazz in the first game of a back-to-back on Friday night. San Antonio will be back home to host the Clippers on Saturday.