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San Antonio at Utah, Final Score: Spurs hold off furious Jazz rally 88-86

The Spurs outplayed the Jazz for most of the first three quarters, but Utah got hot in the fourth behind Joe Ingles' hot shooting and Rodney Hood's stellar play. The Spurs closed out the game with clutch baskets from Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard to pull out a close win.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

For most of the game, this looked like another grind-it-out road win for the Silver and Black, as they slowly increased their lead on the Utah Jazz behind a tough defense and scoring from the usual suspects, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.  The Spurs were up by 16 early in the fourth quarter, but then the Jazz went on a tear. They couldn't hit anything for most of the first three quarters, but in the fourth, it seemed that they couldn't miss anything as Joe Inglis hit a ton of three point shots and Rodney Hood owned the paint. But the Spurs held on with a clutch three-point shot from Tony Parker and the difference maker from Kawhi Leonard with 4.7 seconds left to give the Spurs a narrow two point win.

Game Flow:

Spurs fans have gotten used to slow starts from their team, but tonight the Silver and Black started out hot, with LaMarcus Aldridge hitting his first three shots and Tony Parker hitting his first two.  Unfortunately for the Spurs, the Jazz also got going with shots from Shelvin Mack and Rodney Hood. Gordon Haywood had a beautiful drive dunk to tie it at 10, and the Jazz took the lead with a shot from Hood. With about 4 minutes left in the first, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, David West, and Kyle Anderson came in, but LaMarcus stayed in the game, and Aldridge showed that he could score just as well with assists from Kyle and Patty as if they were coming from Tony Parker. The bench went on an 8-0 run to erase the Jazz lead, and the good guys led by 2, 20-18.  The quarter ended of a clutch three-point shot from David West, who is shooting 50% from beyond the arc this year, and the Spurs led 25-20 at the end of one.

The Spurs bench group started the second quarter, but Aldridge got a little break, with Leonard taking his place.  This paid benefits almost immediately with free throws from the cornrowed one. Kyle hit a basket to stretch the lead to nine, and Quin Snyder had to call a time out, with the Spurs on a 17-2 run. Lyles finally scored a basket at 8:20 left in the second to put the Jazz on the board at 31-22. Danny Green shot an airball, but immediately made amends with a steal and West put the Spurs up by 11.  Trevor Booker answered with an and-one, but despite the Spurs looking a little out-of-sorts on offense, they managed to keep pace with the Jazz with timely baskets from Leonard and West. Derrick Favors, guarded by Tim Duncan, hit a couple of quick twos, and Booker got open for a floater in the paint, and the Jazz pulled to within two at 35-33.  Manu had had enough, and hit a three to push the Spurs' lead to five, which ballooned to six with a tech from Shelvin Mack.  Rodney Hood posted up Tony Parker for a sweet turnaround to cut the lead to four with just under three minutes left in the half. The Jazz weren't going away.

The quarter ended with a stellar display of defense from both teams, with the Spurs ahead 42-37 after Kawhi went 1-2 from the free throw line to end the quarter. After their hot start in the beginning moments of the game, both teams had gone cold, scoring just 17 points in the second quarter.

The brutal defense continued into the third quarter, with the referees allowing a lot of contact between the teams.  But with about 9 minutes left, Danny Green fouled Hayward on a three point attempt, leading to a quick hook from Pop in favor of Kyle Anderson. Hayward hit all three, then Hood hit two more and the Spurs lead was only 46-43.  After a turnover from Tony Parker, the Jazz messed up a 3 on 1 fast break, but Gobert got a pair of free throws on a foul by LaMarcus to cut the lead to 1, capping a 7-0 run by Utah, all at the free throw line. The two teams traded scores for a few more possessions.  With both teams in the early bonus, it was turning into a parade at the free throw line.

A very slow parade. With 4 minutes left in the third quarter, the Spurs had scored only 13, but they had held the Jazz to 14.  LaMarcus finally hit a shot from the elbow to break the drought, and Manu hit a pair of free throws and a timely three to put the good guys up by 11. West stretched the lead to 13 with a sweet assist from Kyle Anderson under the basket. Manu assisted Patty on a 3 to put the Spurs up 67-53.  The Spurs had outscored the Jazz 12-2 to close out the quarter.  Not bad.

The Jazz, after being icy for 2 1/2 quarters, began to come back at the start of the fourth with a pair of three-point shots from Joe Ingles. Then Rodney Hood got free under the basket for and easy dunk, Pop had seen enough.  The lead had been cut to just eight points with ten minutes left in the game. Ingles came right out of the timeout with another three-point shot, and the lead was just 5. David West finally broke the drought, and on the next possession Leonard found himself guarded by Raul Neto, and made him pay with a spectacular dunk, but the Jazz kept up their hot shooting hitting one three point shot after another.

The Spurs were playing well on defense, but with the hot shooting from the Jazz made defense irrelevant, and they also couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. Halfway through the fourth, the Spurs lead was just 4, 76-72. Joe Ingles hit another basket on a drive to the basket to cut the lead to just two, while early in the quarter the Spurs had led by 16.

Rodney Hood went wild, scoring at will against the mismatches presented to him by the Spurs defenders, evening the score at 80 with 2:42 left in the game. Kyle hit a triple on a great assist from Parker to put the Spurs ahead, but Hood answered. Hood scored to put the Jazz up 84-83 with just 61 seconds left in the game.  Tony Parker found himself guarded by Gobert on the next possession, and raised up for a three point shot over his countryman and hit it to put the Spurs up by 2 with 38 seconds left.

Gordon Hayward answered with a turnaround 2 to tie the game at 86.  Tony Parker got blocked by Gobert on the next possession, and the Spurs had 5 seconds left on the shot clock to untie the game. On the inbounds, Kyle Anderson fed the ball to Kawhi who calmly drained a jumper to put the Spurs up 88-86.  There were still 4.7 seconds left in the game.

Rodney Hood took the final shot for the Jazz, but it bounced off the iron harmlessly, and the Spurs had pulled out another win!

Observations and Mental Flotsam:

  • Rudy Gobert is a great rim-protecting big. I kind of wish he was a Spur, but he was picked one pick before the Spurs picked Livio Jean-Charles in the 2013 draft.
  • Joe Ingles is more rugged than I thought he would be. He knows how to drive to the basket and force contact and fouls.
  • The Utah halftime show was an older fellow standing on a large stack of chairs. He really sold it, but it wasn't all that impressive ... at first. Then he did a handstand. That was pretty cool, I guess.
  • Quin Snyder wears a watch that's freakin' huge.  I mean it's really, really big. It kind of reminded me of a Soviet era diver's watch.

Music (sort of) Break:

OK, this is pure schlock, and you may want to just skip past it, but it amuses me to present it to you. It's a song of self-discovery, and I like this version much better than the more well-known version by Charlene. Howard Keel really kills it with this rendition.  Kills it dead.

If you listened to that whole thing, I have sympathy for you. You should get a merit badge.

Final Words:

The Spurs have an appointment Thursday at 9:30 in Oakland with the history-busting Golden State Warriors, who ... well, you know.  There's going to be a ton of hype about the matchup, but it's a FIGABABA (FIrst GAme of A BAck to BAck), so I expect that the Spurs will be resting everyone, and Matt Bonner will play most of the second half one on five.  Scheduled loss?  Only Pop knows for sure.  The Spurs record is now 65-12, and they have just five more meaningless games left before the playoffs start.  Patience, pounders: playoffs are coming.