In this high-scoring tilt between old Midwest Division titans, San Antonio started its four-game Western road trip by weathering a handful of lead changes in the final minutes and gutting out a tough come from behind win - emphatically ending Utah’s eight game win streak. The Spurs, surpassed their average total of ten made threes well before halftime and stood toe-to-toe with the Western conference contenders with made shot after made shot to counter and ultimately overcome the Jazz.
The trio of Dejounte Murray (16 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists - netting his fifth triple-double of the season), Keldon Johnson (24 points and 8 rebounds), and Derrick White (22 points and 2 steals) led seven Spurs in double-digits. The star that shined the brightest in crunchtime was Lonnie Walker IV (19 points and 5 assists), who made the game winner over the regining Defensive Player of the Year.
All-Stars Donovan Mitchell (27 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals) and Rudy Gobert (16 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks) helped Utah surge to a lead for most of the middle two quarters, while San Antonio native Jordan Clarkson (21 points) provided the bulk of the bench output.
- Let’s be honest. We’ve all sung along to “You’re a Sly One, Popovich” at least a dozen times right?
- ESPN Senior Writer Zach Lowe, in his weekly ‘10 Things I Like,’ (behind that ESPN paywall) gave “credit (to) two of San Antonio’s more selfless, defense-first starters for showing needed aggression” today.” That would be Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl! Lowe noted that White “jacked about 17 attempts per 36 minutes since Nov. 22, up from 12 before. He’s averaging 19 points in that stretch, tops on the team. His free throws are up. He’s even flashed a slick lefty floater,” while observing “self-creation from Poeltl is found money, and the Spurs are finding more of it... He and White have a nice chemistry on the pick-and-roll, and Poeltl’s finishing on that play has gotten more varied and artful.”
- Murray’s Magic: Partway through the first quarter, he took it right at Gobert and laid a lefty floater high off the glass over the Jazz center - such a soft touch.
- Devin’s Deeds: His catch-and-shoot from either wing is a sight to behold in this 3-starved offense. As defenders close out on him, he’s turning to his baseline drive for Kobe-esque jumpers.
- Sequence of the Game: After a comedy of errors, missed shots, and hilarity ensued across a set of Jazz and Spurs possessions, Poeltl batted a loose ball out to White for a wing three.
- Keldon’s Kitchen: His catch-and-shoot process, though not as refined as Vassell’s, looks like it has a chance each time. This was his fourth straight game with at least three long-range bombs.
- I am curious to see how Utah solves its now annual problem of opponents playing Gobert off the floor in critical playoff games. If the solution ends up being Rudy Gay as a difference-maker, that would be a heartening thing to see for the former Spur.
- Gay unsuccessfully attempted a tomahawk jam on Poeltl in the first half.
- The prominent arch from Arches National Park on the Jazz warmups? Interesting!
- The Spurs overwhelmingly lost the battle on the 50/50 balls through the first half - not sure if that’s the result of the long misses or an effort deficit.
- For the Marvel fans, the Spurs players put the best Spiderman to a vote and Tobey Maguire garnered the most votes.
- After an easy lob feed to Gobert (shooting 74%!!), Pop called one of his patented “what are we doing here” timeouts 67 seconds in. Bogdanovic showed off his expansive repertoire, while Doug McDermott executed several escape dribbles to get himself a pair of jumpers sandwiched around a four point play. Walker IV also connected on his first two threes to put the Spurs on a 40+ point pace for the period. Unfortunately, the Jazz nearly matched them point-for-point. The teams left the exciting stanza with the Spurs down one after Jordan Clarkson hit a late three.
- Clarkson continued his run of success against his hometown team with some difficult makes. Johnson, however hit a couple of threes of his own from Sean Elliott’s corner. When San Antonio hit its first cold spell, Utah pushed its lead out to double digits behind the devastating combo of higher volume of made threes and their bigs diving deep in the paint on the pick and roll. Drew Eubanks stayed in the game late in the frame despite accumulating four fouls. A stepback three by Mitchell made it 73-56 and the Spurs went into the break down 14.
- Mitchell attacked the basket with impunity to start the third period and found a variety of scoring opportunities for his teammates. A pair of threes by Johnson and Murray kept San Antonio in shouting distance. As the Spurs earned stops at the defensive end, they made a strong 19-5 run. A show-and-go hook by Poeltl closed the gap to seven. Johnson sought out spots in the lane to nail an array of floaters and bankshots and his and-1 brought the Spurs within one. Backup center Jock Landale got the call late in the period to take on the Jazz frontline. Landale deftly spun through the lane around Gobert for a layup and drew an offensive foul from Aussie teammate Joe Ingles shortly after. A Walker IV pull-up impressively tied things at 93. Another pull up in the lane by Walker over Gobert gave his team the lead. A White pull-up three in transition capped off a 41-point third and made it 100-96.
- A stepback three by Clarkson immediately gave Utah the lead back to start the frenzied fourth. The teams took turns taking the lead. White lost his right shoe for the bulk of the next possession after a spinning floater over Whiteside. Landale appeared to get Eubank’s minutes through the critical middle chunk of the period. Doug McDermott turned away two Jazz drives at the rim with Bill Land exclaiming “McDefense!” Then Murray turned down a floater in the lane and kicked it to Johnson in the corner for a corner swish to give San Antonio a six point cushion. A Conley three from the wing with no closeout from Poeltl got Pop to leap angrily off the bench and another quick timeout. Johnson bodied his way through the lane to convert a floater, but Conley tied things at 117 with a three from the other wing.
- In the closing minutes, a rampaging Mitchell layup knotted it at 119. White responded with his own stepback in the key to which Conley sent in his own floater. Poeltl picked up his own carom and laid it in. Mitchell willed in his own 3-point play at the rim to give the Jazz the lead. White, fading left through the lane, put down a 16-footer, and Mitchell responded with his own fadeaway in the lane. An official’s review did not overturn the basket despite Gobert slapping the backboard as the shot fell through.
- Off a botched play, Walker IV defied gravity to fend off Gobert and notch a degree of difficulty lay-in off the glass. Utah did not call timeout and Mitchell’s layup fell feebly off the front rim - with the ball ending up somehow in Murray’s hands. Murray converted one of the two at the other end to make it 128-126 Spurs with 2.1 seconds remaining.
- In a scene reminiscent of 1999 Finals Game 5 (which also involved an in-bounds play with 2.1 seconds where Latrell Sprewell could not score over David Robinson and Tim Duncan), Mitchell could not get a decent look over the outstretched arms of Poeltl and White and his shot fell feebly short of the rim.
For the Jazz fan’s perspective, please visit SLC Dunk.
San Antonio travels to Sacramento to take on De’Aaron Fox and the Kings Sunday afternoon at 5:00 PM CT.