In a tale of two very disparate offensive halves, San Antonio maintained a sizable lead for much of the first 2 1⁄2 quarters before the Utah Jazz stormed back in the second half to rip away their hard-earned lead and extend the Spurs’ Rodeo Road trip misery to eight straight losses and 16 straight overall.
A San Antonio team rejuvenated by the return of several key contributors scurried out to a 17-4 lead and stifled the Utah offensive attack for huge swaths of the first quarter on the way to an impressive 33-24 upper hand.
In a second quarter characterized by numerous runs by the Jazz that were countered by excellent Spurs responses, both teams received tons of support from their benches and even combined to go 17 for their first 19 from the free throw stripe in the half. San Antonio went into the break up ten.
All of the offensive goodwill the Spurs built up shrivuled up in the third and fourth quarters where they scored only 37 points total. Lauri Markkanen woke up from a first half slumber to do damage from distance and at the rim. Utah also crashed the offensive glass with abandon (56-41 advantage) - extending a handful of possessions and getting second-chance points galore.
Markkanen (27 points and 4 rebounds) paced a balanced Utah attack that found healthy bench production from Kris Dunn (15 points and 8 assists) and Ochai Agbaji (14 points). Jeremy Sochan (22 points and 6 rebounds) and Keldon Johnson (18 points and 7 rebounds) and Malaki Branham (13 points and 6 rebounds) steadied a Spurs team beset by frontline foul trouble.
- I’m not sure what to make of the left-handed drive and pull-up moves that Keita Bates-Diop does from the perimeter. It seems to result in a miss, the shot is blocked, or a clumsy gather-and-attempt ensues.
- Utah cornered the market on players having brutish--sounding names with burly builds: Simone Vontecchio, Matt Harpring, Truck Robinson, Antoine Carr, Mark Eaton, Marc Iavaroni, Larry Krystkowiak, and Greg Ostertag.
- San Antonio, in the first half at least, figured out that transition defense is much easier when the other team has to take the ball out of the basket!
- Rudy Gay sadly looks fairly washed (albeit in my handful of minutes watching him).
- Doug McDermott didn’t make any shots tonight.
- Sequence of the Game #2: In the second period, after Charles Bassey found him cutting for a reverse lay-up, Johnson bodied home a floater in the paint on the next possession to keep the Spurs comfortably up on Utah.
- Sequence of the Game #3: So much great defense was displayed by San Antonio early on, but late in the first, Collins absolutely erased an attempted dunk and then found a cutting Johnson for a dunk.
- Jeremy’s Journey: On one sequence late in the first half, Sochan: 1) cut off a Dunn drive, 2) switched onto two other jazz players, 3) helped funnel Clarkson into a Zach Collins block, 4) grabbed a wayward Wesley miss in transition, and 5) [fumbled the ball out of bounds <cough>].
- Malaki’s Moments: There was a move he made in the first quarter in transition that had the appearance of a grizzled veteran. After he caught a pass from Johnson, Malaki executed a smooth up-and-under lay-in that, around a soaring Markkanen cutting off his path, looked like “a Kyrie Irving move” per my watching mate.
- Malaki’s KD Moment: Partway through the second period, Branham brought the ball up the court and with a deliberate pace while probing the defense, nailed a pull-up in the paint that had visions of Durant.
- If you had Sochan and Zach Collins hitting threes to start the game, you must play the Powerball - NOW. A Branham wing fling put San Antonio ahead 11-2 in the opening moments. As Clarkson bricked a three, Sean Elliott quipped “our guys are locked in defensively” and a Branham floater made it stunningly 19-5 halfway through the frame. Clarkson and Kris Dunn asserted themselves offensively, but a Doug McDermott three put his team up 12. After one of the more uplifting first periods in memory punctuated by a soaring Sochan tip-jam, the Spurs exited it up 11.
- Blake Wesley’s turnover at the start of the second allowed Dunn to get away with a transition dunk. Following an impressive Sochan lay-up where Dunn tackled him, both players were assigned technicals for their antics. Branham’s jumper in transition put San Antonio back up 11. A Dunn three brought the Jazz within eight, but Johnson bodied through Clarkson twice for tough buckets. The Spurs’ advantage stayed between 7-13 for the balance of the period. An acrobatic and-1 by Sochan ended San Antonio’s scoring for the half with them up 65-55.
- After the break, Utah made a 11-2 run via free throws from a more-invested Markkanen and Talen Horton-Tucker, while running up San Antonio’s personal foul count. The Jazz also kept them away from second-shot and transition opportunities. A Branham floater ended a litany of misses from the Spurs. Collins and Charles Bassey both picked up their fourth and fifth fouls respectively, but Bassey remained undettered and blocked a Clarkson shot and stole a Jazz pass in transition. Free throws from Walker Kessler gave the Jazz its first lead. A Branham offensive rebound and putback nudged the Spurs back ahead, but the Utah onslaught nearly buried San Antonio - it was very lucky to leave the quarter down only six.
- Free throws by Bates-Diop temporarily steaded the Spurs to start the fourth. Dunn found easy going in the paint for several buckets. Sochan and Bates-Diop operated deep in the lane to force the Jazz into the foul bonus. A pair of Markkanen threes, however, gave Utah its biggest lead and San Antonio was unable to make any dent into their deficit.
For the Jazz fan’s perspective, please visit SLC Dunk.
The two teams play each other again on Tuesday night at 8:00 PM CDT after taking the next two nights off.