The Rodeo Road Trip has not been kind to the Spurs. San Antonio is 0-8 over this stretch and are losers of their last 16 games. They will have a chance to get back home with a win in a rematch with the Utah Jazz, who beat them 118-102 in their last game.
In the previous matchup, the Silver and Black started the contest with an impressive showing, outscoring the Jazz 65-55 in the first half. The Jazz came out with vengeance in the second half, blowing the Spurs out of the water with physicality on both ends. Gregg Popovich called out his young squad after the game.
“We talk about 48 minutes all the time. We’re obviously not a 48-minute team. We got outscored 16 in the third quarter. I think in nine minutes they [Utah] were in the bonus. All that discipline goes to hell. Not mature enough to understand that you got to keep it up. It’s a game of consistency, execution, and keeping your competitiveness up. We just don’t have it for 48. I think I can finally say that at this point of the season.”
Will the team respond tonight? The Jazz are still in contention for a top-6 seed in the Western Conference with a chance to avoid the play-in. Every game for them is important in the tight race. San Antonio will need to bring effort for a full 48 minutes if they want to take down a hungry Utah squad.
San Antonio Spurs (14-47) vs Utah Jazz (31-31)
February 27, 2023 | 8 p.m. CT
Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI/KXTN
Spurs injuries: Tre Jones — Questionable (foot), Khem Birch — Out (knee), Julian Champagnie — Out (two-way), Romeo Lanford — Out (thigh), Isaiah Roby — Out (ankle), Devin Vassell — Out (knee)
Jazz injuries: Jordan Clarkson — Out (thumb), Collin Sexton — Out (hamstring), Micah Potter — Out (two-way), Johnny Juzang — Out (two-way)
What to watch for
Who will respond for the Spurs?
Losing sucks, and getting called a team that can’t play a 48-minute game by one of the best coaches of all time makes it sting more. Will Pop’s words inspire this team to step up and prove him wrong? Which players will come out with something to prove in Salt Lake City? The organization and fans will be looking to see how resilient some of the team’s future building blocks are in the face of adversity. Expect some of the youngsters to play with a chip on their shoulder, while they look for revenge.
Will Lauri Markkanen slow down?
“The Finnisher” has been on a scorcher lately. Since the All-Star break, Markkanen is averaging 35 points a game on over 50% shooting. He’s done it as a threat on the perimeter and the paint. The Jazz forward has been great against San Antonio all season, averaging 29.5 ppg and 8 rpg. Can the Spurs’ athletic wings throw him off of his game? If the Silver and Black want to compete, they will need to find a way to slow down Utah’s all-star.
Can the offense keep up?
The Spurs defense is one of the worst in franchise history. Inexperience and lack of talent on that end all play into the team allowing 122.9 points per game. San Antonio likely won’t be able to shut down Utah, but can they outscore them? The offense looked competent in the first half of their first matchup of the 2-game series, with Zach Collins, Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham and Devonte Graham clicking. Can they channel what was working for this contest? With Tre Jones potentially making his return to action, the team will be adding it’s lead facilitator and 3rd leading scorer. We have only seen Branham next to Jones in the starting-five once this season. Taking some of the playmaking burden off of the rookie could open his game up to focus more on scoring off of the ball, where he has shown great improvement lately.
San Antonio was on pace to score 130 points before putting up just 37 in the second half of the previous game. They will need to score much more than that to keep up with a Jazz team averaging 117 points per contest.
For the Jazz fan’s perspective, visit SLC Dunk.
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