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Reeling Spurs can’t hang with Jazz, lose 5th straight game

The Jazz proved to be on another level, beating the Spurs comfortably for the second time in a row while missing two All-Stars.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The reeling Spurs suffered yet another blowout loss in Utah, this time 126-94. San Antonio has now dropped the past five games and with the schedule not giving them respite any time soon, the end of the season could get even uglier for the Silver and Black.

Whether this loss has any significance is largely in the eye of the beholder, really. The flow of the game was nothing special. The Jazz were getting good looks on offense early on, largely from beyond the arc and at the rim, while the Spurs, partly by design and partly because they couldn’t get better looks, settled for mid-range jumpers. For a while the offense perked up when the playmakers started driving with more purpose, but it was hardly sustainable since the uptick it came with the Jazz not really trying much on defense. The difference in talent level became apparent as the minutes went on and with a big run to end the first quarter and another to start the second, Utah took control of the game and never let go.

One of the saving graces of these Spurs is that they always try, and when it seemed like the starters and bench veterans didn’t have it in them to fight in what was clearly going to be a losing effort, Gregg Popovich did something he hadn’t done much this season. The deep bench checked in early at his command and at least brought with it some much-needed urgency. vindicating Pop’s extreme decision. Alas, that momentary jolt of energy wasn’t enough against an elite opponent, even one that was missing its All-Star backcourt. Both in the first half and after the few minutes of the second half the starters played, the young guys showed that they are feisty, but facing a scrappy bunch simply was not going to faze a Jazz team that was focused and well-coached.

Except for a few minutes, Spurs-Jazz was mostly garbage time. There’s no denying that. The only thing to do, then, is decide whether there was something to learn from it. It doesn’t seem like it, unfortunately. There were not enough competitive minutes to determine if Gorgui Dieng should move permanently to the backup center spot or if Devin Vassell is beginning to get the hang of it as a starter. Even the minutes that went to the young guys failed to reveal anything about this team that was previously hidden, other than the fact that Tre Jones can dunk. It’s not even possible to take this night as proof that the Spurs would be better off not making the play-in, because no one who has seen this team recently realistically thought they could challenge one of the top teams if they got to face them in the postseason to begin with.

At least at times, Spurs-Jazz felt like nothing but a waste of time, and hinted at the possibility that maybe the entire season has been one. This is a San Antonio team that hasn’t tanked or fully gone young but might also not be good enough to hold on to the 10th spot. Hopefully the next game, whether it’s a win or a loss, will at least feel like it has more meaning.

Game notes

  • DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray combined to go 5-for-14. The Spurs were supposed to have an edge in the backcourt with Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell out, but the Jazz masked those absences well once again with size, Joe Ingles’ playmaking and Jordan Clarkson’s scoring.
  • Keldon Johnson tried to challenge Rudy Gobert inside a couple of times but was unsuccessful. Keldon ended up going 2-for-10 from the floor and was generally outplayed by the Jazz forwards, who punished the Spurs from beyond the arc.
  • Drew Eubanks got most of the minutes at center, as Jakob Poeltl was benched along with the rest of the starters. Eubanks did what he always does, getting good numbers. But will that be enough for him to regain the backup center spot that Dieng, who checked in first when the game was still competitive, has seemingly claimed? Probably not for now, but Eubanks still has a chance if Dieng regresses as a shooter, which might already be happening.
  • Devin Vassell played a lot and looked good, showing off his shooting touch from inside the arc and handling the ball some. Lonnie Walker IV played less and mostly did well as a facilitator but not as a scorer. The void left by the absence of Derrick White is looking even harder to fill than anticipated.
  • Patty Mills and Rudy Gay barely played but somehow managed to be minus-14 in under seven minutes. Single game plus minus is essentially meaningless, but this is too strange to ignore. The good news is that they got to rest while the young guys stretched their legs.
  • Speaking of the young guys, Tre Jones looked solid while Luka Samanic continues to have brilliant moments and head scratching stretches. Samanic is infinitely more gifted, but Jones is living proof that just being steady is a skill, one that Luka will hopefully eventually develop.
  • Jordan Clarkson is now officially a Spurs killer. In the past two seasons, he’s averaged 20 points on 49 percent shooting in eight games against the Silver and Black. Clarkson loves to shine against his hometown team.

Next game: @Kings on Friday

The only team without a winning record left in the Spurs’ schedule are the Kings, currently winners of four straight and seven of their last 10. Let’s hope for a good performance that ends two streaks.