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San Antonio vs. Utah, Final Score: Spurs can’t match Jazz’s execution, lose 99-110

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San Antonio loses the first of its two game series in Salt Lake City in ‘death by a thousand cuts’ fashion

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz
San Antonio’s shooting betrayed them and its defense stayed a step behind the Jazz for the entirety of the game
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The host Jazz ran away from the Spurs after the opening tip and was not seriously threatened after that. Utah rode a healthy advantage from 3-point range and rebounds in the blowout win. San Antonio appeared flat-footed throughout and was worse for the wear in this latest onslaught of games and particularly after three overtime games in a week.

San Antonio was bolstered by leading efforts from its rested stars - DeMar DeRozan (22 points, 6 assists, and 3 steals), Dejounte Murray (15 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists) and Rudy Gay (17 points and 7 rebounds). After some stellar scoring efforts recently, the offense sputtered to 5-for-18 from distance. After going to overtime three of the last four games, San Antonio was granted a bit of reprieve in this regulation loss.

Utah, despite the absence of star guards Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, Jr., were paced by Rudy Gobert (24 points and 15 rebounds), Bojan Bogdanovic (25 points and 3 rebounds) and Jordan Clarkson (16 points). The Jazz continued its campaign to grab the top seed in the Western Conference - going to 28-4 at home. San Antonio (8 games remaining) remains 2.5 games ahead of 11th place New Orleans (7 remaining) after the Pelicans lost to Golden State earlier.

Observations

  • Bill Land, prior to tipoff, noted: “You never know what to expect with this crazy Spurs team.”
  • San Antonio native Jordan Clarkson came off the bench for Utah and netted two immediate field goals.
  • Squint hard enough, and it looks like Utah runs their pick-and-roll offense with the smoothness and efficiency of the late 00’s Spurs.
  • Gorgui Dieng has a really nice shooting stroke and moves his feet really well on defense. He picked Clarkson’s pocket clean on a crossover attempt in the third period. Dieng later uncorked a fadeaway stepback over Gobert that would have made Dirk Nowitzki proud.
  • Keldon’s Kitchen: Though it looks ‘Robert Horry’-level hitchy, Johnson’s pull-up jumper will keep his opponents honest for his preferred drives into the paint.
  • Devin’s Deeds: Bojan Bogdanovic tried to bodybump Vassell into the post early in the first quarter, and was instead goaded into a double-dribble. Vassell followed up his baseline miss with a tip-in over Gobert and stripped Clarkson clean shortly after Dieng’s swipe in the third quarter.
  • Sequence of the Game: Late in the first half, Johnson drove the ball into Gobert’s radius and whipped a pass around him to Murray for a nifty lay-in.
  • In light of ESPN’s Avengers-themed broadcast tonight, here’s my attempt at assigning spots on Earth’s greatest heroes’ roster to Spurs players: DeMar DeRozan (IronMan), Drew Eubanks (Thor), Dejounte Murray (Spider-Man), Keldon Johnson (Hulk), Derrick White (Captain America), Lonnie Walker IV (Black Panther), Patty Mills (QuickSilver).
  • The Spurs spotted Utah a quick five points (an Ingles floater and O’Neale pull-up three), which drew a Pop timeout in all of 40 seconds. DeRozan connected on his first three jumpers, while Poeltl found early success with three Pop-a-shots. The tired Spurs gave up a handful of offensive rebounds after Poeltl fell into foul trouble, and behind Clarkson’s bench output, the Jazz surged out to a double-digit lead. Two late scores by Murray put a dent in the deficit, but the Jazz left the quarter up 31-22.
  • Several buckets by Rudy Gay and a Murray and-1 early in the second period kept San Antonio within shouting distance of the Jazz. However, Clarkson and Bogdanovic’s scoring prowess helped extend Utah to an 20-point advantage, while San Antonio was unable to mount a meaningful response. The Jazz held an 18-0 advantage from behind-the-arc, which comprised the deficit heading into halftime.
  • DeRozan asserted himself more forcefully to start the third period for San Antonio, but unsung starter Georges Niang hit from distance twice. In an example of Gobert’s defensive dominance, during one possession, blocked Johnson’s layup attempt at the rim and then forced him to dribble the ball off his foot out of bounds. The teams traded baskets through the rest of the time and Utah stayed ahead 89-72.
  • Back-to-back threes from Gay briefly cut into the sizeable deficit. However, the Jazz machine, paced by Clarkson and Bogdanovic’s exploits, generated enough offense to keep San Antonio at bay throughout the fourth quarter. San Antonio had several opportunities to close within a dozen in the last minutes, but were unable to find their footing.

For the Jazz fan’s perspective, visit SLC Dunk.

Both teams face each other again Wednesday night at 8:00 PM CT on NBA TV.