When the Spurs played the Jazz earlier this week, they contained Lauri Markkanen in the first half and he went wild in the second, scoring 27 as the Jazz easily outclassed the fading Spurs. Tonight, even though Markkenen dominated in the first half, the Spurs hung on and kept competing as the both teams struggled to score in the second half. The Jazz were missing
Jeremy Jordan Clarkson, and the lack of their main offensive facilitator left the Utah offense unable to create shots except for Lauri, who lost steam late in the game as the Spurs turned up their defensive intensity and finally won the game as Keldon Johnson closed it out late, breaking the 16 game loss streak and preventing a winless Rodeo Road Trip. It was a pretty ugly effort by both teams, but for Spurs fans hungry for a win, it was a beautiful sight, as the Spurs saw their first win in over a month.
The Jazz started out slowly on Saturday night, but that wasn’t going to happen tonight as Agbaji and Markkanen hit a pair of triples to give the Jazz the early lead. The Spurs fell behind early, trading two point shots for Jazz threes, when they weren’t giving Lauri Markkanen a free path to the hoop for a spectacular dunk. The Spurs picked up their game when the bench players came into the game, and somehow led 32-30 after the first 12 minutes, capped by three free throws for Devonte’ Graham, overcoming 14 first quarter points from Markkanen.
The Spurs started out well in the second quarter, but two quick fouls from Jeremy Sochan put the talented rookie on the sideline, which should have put San Antonio at a big disadvantage. Enter Charles Bassey, who really showed up tonight, and the Spurs patchwork lineup scrapped their way to a 9 point lead midway through the quarter. The Spurs went cold after that, and a 10-0 run from the Jazz helped them to regain the lead briefly, with the Silver and Black regaining to lead 50-48 at the half.
Neither team looked good to start the second half as sloppy play broke out on both ends fo the court, and neither team could score. Lauri Markkanen finally got the Jazz out of their slump with by drawing a foul and getting free for a quick dunk to regain the lead, which they stretched to a 10-0 run and their biggest lead of the game. The Spurs who had scored only 12 points in the quarter with 2 minutes left in the quarter, put together a mini run to close to a basket and trailed 73-71 after three.
Sochan, who had been held in check for most of the game, got untracked in the final frame, but so did Kris Dunn for Utah. The Spurs dialed up their defensive intensity and it propelled them to a quick six point lead with Sochan as the maestro orchestrating the Silver and Black on both ends of the court. Talen Horton-Tucker erased that lead with a pair of triples, the first of which was a nearly impossible desperation heave as the shot clock ran out, but it still counts, and the game was tied with just over 5 minutes to play. The final moments of the game were played as both teams were wearing leaden boots, as clunky offense and poor shooting dominated, as the teams swapped the lead back and forth. The Spurs finally got a little bit of separation to take a 5 point lead with a minute left, and clutch baskets from Keldon Johnson sealed the win as the Spurs won 102-94.
- I don’t know which assistant coach is responsible for coaching the Spurs bigs, but something they really need to work on is not fouling. The only Spurs big who doesn’t get into instant foul trouble the minute he steps on the court is Gorgui Dieng, and he accomplishes that by being too slow to get close enough to defend players. I love Dieng as a person, but he’s just not athletic enough to play in the NBA at this point in his career.
- The presence of Walker Kessler really stymied the Spurs close to the basket, as nobody on the Silver and Black knew how to finish in the paint against him. Jeremy Sochan really seemed intimidated by Kessler’s size and was reluctant to shoot against him, which was unusual for the the usually confident rookie.
- After a rough start this season delayed by injury concerns, Blake Wesley is starting to show what the Spurs saw in him to draft him in the first round. He’s not just a quick driver on offense, he can make key defensive plays, like a nice steal and dunk that brought memories of a guy who used to play on the Spurs who wore #2.
- Doug McDermott is not a good defender, but when the Spurs need baskets, his relentless movement without the ball and shotmaking gives the Silver and Black an offensive dimension that the starters lack.
- Bassey has been looking good in games lately. He’s a guy with a lot of upside, and the Spurs signing him to a team-friendly long term contract is looking like a very smart move.
- I’m not a fan of the banana yellow Utah jerseys, especially in contrast to the classy black road Spurs togs. I guess the league only wants one garishly clad to be on the court at once. Last game it was the Spurs fiesta unis vs. the Black and Gold Jazz.
- This was a really low-scoring game by modern NBA standards. I’d like to say it’s because the Spurs defense was improving, but mostly it seemed that the Jazz offense was really stagnant without
JeremyJordan Clarkson, who sat out the game with an injury.
For the Jazz fans’ perspective, please visit SLC Dunk.
The Rodeo Road Trip finishes tonight, and the Spurs go home to face the Pacers on Thursday night in the AT&T Center. That’s just a prelude the biggest tire fire in the NBA this season, which a Saturday/Sunday back-to-back with the equally incompetent Houston Rockets, in a battle which will determine the worst team in the league this year. This will be the battle for the bottom, and it’s a must miss for most basketball fans, but you’re a Spurs fan, so you’re going to watch it. See you there!