The Spurs will look to carry the momentum over from a dominant 4th quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers in another rematch, this time against the Utah Jazz. Utah, a personal League Pass favorite of mine, took the Spurs to the cleaners when the two met in Salt Lake City earlier last week, to the sad, sad tune of 139-105. Now comes a chance for the good guys to dish out another dosage of revenge against a team that drubbed them and start a win-streak on their longest home-stand of the entire season (6 straight games within the confines of the AT&T Center).
Utah Jazz (13-13) @ San Antonio Spurs (12-14)
December 9, 2018| 6:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI
Spurs injuries: Dejounte Murray (knee), Pau Gasol (foot)
Jazz injuries: None
Utah has disappointed many to start the season. After the emergence of rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell and a strong finish to last year that saw them make it to the 2nd round of the playoffs in their first year without Gordon Hayward, many had Utah pegged as a dark-horse team out West. Alas, they sit at just .500 on the season, struggling to recapture the top-5 defensive brilliance that aided them last season. However, a pair of blowout wins, one over the Spurs and another in a chippy, playoff rematch against the Houston Rockets, and a 4-2 record in their last 6 games could be a sign that they’re starting to figure it out.
Utah boasts plenty of multi-faceted weapons on both sides of the ball. Though Mitchell hasn’t made a significant leap from last season, he’s still a big, dynamic guard that demands constant attention. Sharpshooter Joe Ingles, who tops my list of Players I Wish Were Spurs, has been displaying just how complete a player he is, as Quin Snyder has entrusted the Aussie with ball-handling duties where he frequently runs pick and roll with Utah’s bigs. The defense, led by reigning DPOY Rudy Gobert, is slowly working its way back up to the dominance it showcased last season. Utah plays tough, hard-nosed defense and features plenty of dynamic guards and sneaky good defenders like Ingles for the Spurs to worry about.
San Antonio kicked this homestand off with a dramatic victory over the Lakers Friday night, when they used a big 4th quarter to overcome a 10-point deficit. Led by another terrific performance from DeMar DeRozan and major contributions from Davis Bertans and Jakob Poeltl, the Spurs showed that they could put on a strong defensive performance when they’re on. After giving up 72 points in the first half, San Antonio put the clamps on and held LA to just 48 points in the second half (for comparisons sake, they gave up 43 to the Lakers Wednesday night in the 4th quarter alone). To prevent another 35-point drubbing to a team that currently ranks 24th in points scored, the Spurs will have to continue to embrace their inner-dog on that end of the court.
Offensively, the consensus seems to be that the 2nd unit moves the ball much more efficiently than the first unit does. That first unit often looks like it tries to get LaMarcus Aldridge going early with post-ups and jumpers. With Aldridge having a slow start to the season and having difficulty with his shot, it would be in the starters’ best interests to just focus on getting the best shots possible and letting Aldridge play within the flow of the offense.
Early aggression from DeMar DeRozan is essential for San Antonio to find ways to attack this Utah defense. Sean Elliott mentioned during the broadcast of the Blazers game that DeRozan likes to spend the first quarter looking to get others going before he starts to look for his own shot. A fast start from their best player certainly wouldn’t hurt San Antonio.
If San Antonio comes out defending like they did against the Lakers in the second half on Friday, they’ll give themselves an excellent chance to push their win-streak to 2 and hopefully start to build momentum during a crucial home-stand. While Utah has plenty of good players on offense that know their roles, they don’t have someone like a LeBron James that San Antonio has close to no chance of defending at all. Offensively, more movement and less isolation like the 2nd unit from the starters will help the Spurs get good looks against a Jazz team that seems to be righting the ship. Let’s hope the Spurs are in the process of doing the same.
Vegas Prediction: Jazz by 2.5
PtR Prediction: Spurs by 8
You can check out the Utah perspective by heading over to SLC Dunk
PtR’s Gamethread will be up a half hour before the game for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.