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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz

Which is the higher priority - winning or developing?

NBA: Utah Jazz at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs’ basketball mercifully resumes tonight as the Silver and Black face off against the Jazz in Salt Lake City. After a much-needed 9 day break, the Spurs pick the ball back up with the first of their two remaining games of what has thus far been a disastrous Rodeo Road Trip. With only 1 win since setting out on their annual February field trip, the Spurs have fallen to 23-31 and are currently 4.5 games out of the playoff picture.

The Jazz, meanwhile, are 4th in the West and 1 of just 5 teams in the league with both a top 10 offense and a top 10 defense. The Spurs managed to pull off a victory when the 2 teams met in San Antonio just a few weeks ago, but repeating that impressive performance on the road will be even more difficult. The Jazz have the 4th best home record in the NBA, at 20-5, and haven’t dropped a game at Vivint Smart Home Arena to a team below .500 all season.

San Antonio Spurs (23-31) at Utah Jazz (36-18)

February 21, 2020 | 8:00 PM CT

Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: None

Jazz Injuries: Mike Conley (day to day)

What to watch for

  • The Spurs should be transitioning from prioritizing wins to prioritizing development. If that’s the case, expect to see a little less of the team’s veterans and a little more of their youth movement. That probably won’t mean much of a decrease in minutes for DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, but Bryn Forbes and Rudy Gay could certainly spend more time on the pine.
  • The Spurs dominated from the mid-range en route to a 70 point 1st half and a 127-120 victory in the teams’ previous meeting. DeMar led the way with 38 points on 11 of 19 from the field and 16 of 19 from the free throw line to go with 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
  • They’ll likely need a repeat of that performance to hang with a Jazz team riding a 4 game winning streak, with the last 3 all coming over playoff teams.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge missed that game with an injured thumb, which precipitated some odd lineup decisions, including playing Rudy Gay at center. With their big man rotation back in order, they probably won’t have to resort to something that seems so desperate on paper, but it did work, so maybe the Spurs will try it again. If they do, hopefully it’ll just be against the Jazz’ reserves this time.
  • The Jazz appear poised for a strong stretch run. Since trading for Jordan Clarkson at the end of December, Utah has led the league in scoring efficiency at 118.8 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass, on the strength of the league’s best shooting, with an effective field goal percentage of 57.9%. Mike Conley seems back to his old self, Donovan Mitchell’s slump is over, and Coach Quin Snyder has found a rotation that keeps the right amount of shooting and playmaking on the floor to compliment the team’s always stingy defense.

This is one of the Spurs’ toughest remaining contests of the season. A win could portend a (very) late surge towards the playoffs, though a loss on the road to a superior opponent is the much more likely outcome.

For the Jazz fan’s perspective, please 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.