December is here and the Spurs ushered the holiday season in with a desperately needed win against the always-feisty Trail Blazers. The offense, which had been making the wrong kind of headlines lately, was blazing the nets for 131 points on 60.2% shooting on Sunday night. Sure, it would’ve been nice to have also been efficient on defense hold Portland’s starting backcourt to less than 61 points, but after the Spurs’ recent games, it was just relieving to see a definitive, refuse-to-lose victory from a team that had been slumping badly.
As for the Jazz of Utah, they come into this game after a narrow 100-102 loss to the Miami Heat. Ranked 14th in the topsy-turvy Western Conference, the Jazz are struggling to find their own offense after a year in which they overachieved and made the Conference Semifinals. They shouldn’t be taken lightly, as Donovan Mitchell, one of the league’s upcoming gunners, will most assuredly come out firing.
December 4th, 2018 | 8:00 CT
Watch: NBATV/FSSW | Listen: WOAI
San Antonio Spurs
Dejounte Murray (ACL), Pau Gasol (stress fracture in foot)
Why can’t we be friends?
Much has been made about the Spurs’ record when LaMarcus Aldridge hits the 20-point benchmark (10-1 when he does, 1-12 when he doesn’t), but that doesn’t take account of his growing chemistry with DeMar DeRozan. In what was arguably the best game that we’ve seen the two play together, the midrange masters were on the same page on Sunday, with four of DeRozan’s six assists going to Aldridge on the classic pick-and-pop action. It was a storybook of early Aldridge sweet-shooting and late-game DeRozan heroics that’ll hopefully be retold tonight in Salt Lake.
Who can it be now?
As the Jazz have struggled to find their footing in the early season, one thing that they don’t lack is a strong defensive identity. Rudy Gobert is one of the premier defensive centers in the game, and though he’s appeared to struggle to adjust to the new freedom-of-movement rules that the NBA implemented this year, I don’t expect LA to do too much banging in the paint with him tonight. Likewise, though he may look like your seventh grade science teacher, Joe Ingles has brought his lunchpail mentality from down under and will look to contain DeMar DeRozan. This is a game where Spurs role players (looking at you, Davis Bertans and Patty Mills) will have to step up and create their own looks.
For a prediction tonight, I’d expect to see a back-and-forth affair with neither team fully living up to their capabilities. For the Jazz’s, the question remains whether anyone else besides Ricky Rubio and Mitchell can create their own shots. Likewise, I need the Spurs to prove that Sunday’s offensive explosion can become a nightly effort and not the result of a backs-against-the-wall last stand. For that reason, coupled with a crippling feeling that some Utah shooter will get hot, I’m going with the Jazz by a hair. Forgive me, Pop.
Vegas odds: Spurs by 6
Game Prediction: Jazz by 2
For the Jazz fans’ perspective, visit SLC Dunk.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this afternoon for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.