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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz

Can a well-rested starting lineup help the Silver and Black end their three-game skid?

Utah Jazz v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

Fresh off three overtime outings a week ago, the sputtering Spurs must regroup as they face the second-place Jazz. A shorthanded San Antonio squad lost on a deflating buzzer-beater to the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers on Sunday. But they should regain the services of Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, and Jakob Poelt and have the luxury of meeting Utah sans their All-Star backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley.

Although the Silver and Black are below .500 for the first time since early April, they have a perfect opportunity to turn their fortunes around when they travel to Salt Lake City for a matchup at Vivint Arena. The good guys are uncomfortably close to letting the New Orleans Pelicans snatch the final play-in spot from them as the regular season comes to an end, and snapping their three-game skid is the first step to getting back on track.

San Antonio Spurs (31-32) @ Utah Jazz (46-18)

May 3, 2021 | 9:00 PM CST

Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Trey Lyles (Out — Ankle), Derrick White (Out — Ankle)

Jazz Injuries: Udoka Azubuike (Out — Ankle), Donovan Mitchell (Out — Ankle), Mike Conley (Out — Hamstring)

What to Watch For

  • The 2020-2021 NBA season has been an anomaly by several standards. Between the ongoing pandemic, a condensed schedule, rampant injuries, newly implemented COVID-19 protocols, and a near-universal acceptance of load management, the league has become borderline unrecognizable. And the Silver and Black have also been uncharacteristically poor at home, going a ghostly 13-20 inside the familiar confines of the AT&T Center. Despite their struggles in the 2-1-0, San Antonio has been shockingly excellent when they depart the Alamo City, posting the third-best road splits in the association at 18-12. Unfortunately, Utah boasts the best home record. This tilt pits two teams on the opposite end of the spectrum against one another. Even down a pair of All-Stars, the Jazz should be a handful for the Spurs on an unforgivingly scheduled SEGABABA.
  • The absence of Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell is a much-welcomed sight for San Antonio, but that doesn’t mean the Spurs faithful should do any premature celebrating. Utah is home to two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, and they also roster two of the leading candidates for Sixth Man of the Year in Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles. Don’t forget about Bojan Bogdanovic. The seventh-year small forward is more than capable of exploding for a 30-piece on any given night, and he burned the Silver and Black for 28 points in their last meeting. Depth has been one of the defining features of the Jazz this season, and they dropped 154 points in a 49-point blowout of the Sacramento Kings minus Mitchell and Conley last Wednesday. There’s no question head coach Quin Snyder has plenty of firepower at his disposal, but San Antonio has a shot to exit victorious if they dial in on the defensive end.
  • DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray have been on a collective tear as of late, combining for 48.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 20.5 assists per game over their last three appearances. For all their impressive nightly numbers, the Spurs are just 1-2 during that stretch. Despite the disappointing team results, it’s worth noting how debilitating Derrick White’s recent season-ending ankle sprain has been for San Antonio on both sides of the ball. Head coach Gregg Popovich gave his leading scorers and starting center Jakob Poeltl a much-needed day off versus the Sixers. And Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson, Rudy Gay, and Gorgui Dieng stepped up and put forth strong performances in a last-second overtime loss. While a healthy (mostly) roster doesn’t ensure a victory, well-rested legs and a couple of hot hands could provide the Spurs the boost they need to overcome a formidable Western Conference opponent.

For the Jazz fans’ perspective, visit SLC Dunk.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.