The drama of tonight’s game was drained off before it began, as both the Grizzlies and Suns won and eliminated the Spurs from the playoffs. What ensued was a sloppy affair, as neither team had much to play for, but nothing could dampen the mood for the young Spurs team that played their asses off for the two weeks in Orlando and came close to securing a playoff berth. But the Suns were better, and the Grizzlies did just enough to hold onto a slim lead over the Spurs. The Portland Trail Blazers still have a game to play, but whatever happens in that game, the Spurs are done for this year.
Still, there was a game to play today, and Pop rested his veterans and gave extended minutes to guys like Luka Samanic who gained valuable experience in a setting with little to no pressure. The score of the game was almost beside the point, but for you sticklers out there, the Jazz won 118-112.
- Before the Orlando tournament began, I was predicting that the NBA would follow the trajectory that Major League Baseball is now on. A season marred with cancellations and chaos, but to my surprise, that did not happen. The commissioner and the player’s association put together an incredible plan, and everyone bought into it. Except for one incident at the very beginning, no players have been caught violating the sanctity of the bubble, and the result has been ZERO! positive tests for Covid19 during the 8 game seeding round. Things can still go wrong, but it’s been an incredible success so far. My hats are off to Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA President Chris Paul for their parts in putting together the best sporting event since the pandemic has struck.
- Congratulations to Monte Williams and the Phoenix Suns. They may not make the playoffs, if Portland wins later tonight, but they were the best team in Orlando for the seeding games. I can’t think of anyone in the NBA who deserves this kind of success than Coach Williams.
- The best Spurs in 2020 were the bubble Spurs. This team is so much fun to watch.
- Donovan Mitchell’s two-tone kicks were really cool.
- Quinndary Weatherspoon left the game late in the first quarter with a left leg injury. Hopefully, he can be fine by the start of the season this winter, as he’s shown a lot of promise when he’s gotten onto the floor.
- Sean Elliott kept comparing Keldon Johnson to Bernard King. I remember Bernard from his days with the Knicks, and I can see it. It’s the combination of physicality and smoothness. If he becomes that kind of scorer, that’d be amazing. He had another great game today with 24 points.
- Luka Samanic got his first extended time with the Spurs this year, and showed some flashes. He’s definitely a long term project, but he has decent shooting form, and he played solid defense. I can’t wait to see how much he’ll develop before next season.
- Quin Snyder is an intense dude. Even though this game meant nothing to his team’s chances, you could see the rage seething out of him every time somebody on the Jazz made a mistake.
- DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay sat this one out. No reason for the veterans to play when the point is to give experience to the young guys. Derrick White also was held out with a knee contusion.
Luka Samanic got his first start as a pro tonight, but he quickly picked up a pair of fouls, and . . . Pop left him in, because what does it matter? Donovan Mitchell, not expecting to play the whole game, wasn’t passing up any shots, and he dominated the Utah scoring in the first frame. Keldon Johnson was carrying the load for the Silver and Black, but the Jazz went off behind Jordan Clarkson’s 11 points and led 41-24 after a quarter.
The Spurs second quarter was a little better, as they closed the deficit as a summer league game broke out in Orlando, and Donovan Mitchell, done for the day, chewed bubble gum on the Utah bench as the Jazz led 61-50 at halftime.
The third quarter was an abomination against the sport of basketball. There were a few moments that were nice, like Luka Samanic sinking a deep shot, but it was a disorganized mess by both teams as the game devolved into a combination of one-on-one play and passes to no one. After 12 minutes of this, the Jazz led the Spurs 87-77.
The Spurs makeshift lineup was porous on defense, and turned over the basketball with great frequency, but the Jazz backups in the game were almost equally inept, except for some pretty drives to the basket by Jarrell Brantley and Rayjon Tucker, and the teams kept the margin to about 10 points. The Spurs got some deep shots from Lonnie Walker IV and Samanic, and they began to turn up the defense halfway through the quarter to cut the deficit to 3 with just under 5 minutes left. A quick 9-0 run from the Jazz put an end to that, and without their veterans on the court to provide their steadying influence late, the Spurs lost 118-112.
The Spurs failed to reach the playoffs today, but the future is bright, and it’s going to be different and exciting.
What’s Next . . .
For the Jazz fan’s perspective, please visit SLC Dunk.
The seeding tournament is done now, and the next important date for the Spurs is August 20, when they find out where they will land in the NBA Draft Lottery for the first time in 23 years. It’s been an incredible run, but I can’t get over the feeling that something new is beginning, and it will be fantastic. See you guys at the lottery!