NBA Regular Season: San Antonio Spurs (18-4) at Utah Jazz (12-10) -- Game Preview

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Game #23 • EnergySolutions Arena • Salt Lake City, UT • December 12, 2012 • 8:30 p.m. (MT) • TV: ESPN and ROOT Sports • RADIO: 1280 AM/97.5 FM and 1600 AM ESPN Deportes

NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 23:

San Antonio Spurs (18-4) at Utah Jazz (12-10)

#SASatUTA Game Stream -- Pounding The Rock -- Spurs vs Jazz coverage

The measuring stick game...

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The Basics:

The San Antonio Spurs are, well, amazing. Despite winning 50 out of 66 games last year people STILL thought they'd somehow slip this season. Well, they are sitting at 18-4 and are #1 in the entire Western Conference after playing more than a quarter of their games this year. They're a good team, and a great franchise. And this year is no different. We've all heard the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," well, the Spurs are all about that it seems. They resigned Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Daniel Green, and Patrick Mills as free agents this last season, and their only significant off-season splash (besides hiring Scott Layden as their assistant General Manager) was to bring in French rookie guard Nando de Colo.

This year the Spurs have 7 guys scoring at least 9 ppg and while on paper they don't scare you with their bigs -- they kill it with points in the paint with all their guard scoring. The theory set by the Jazz coaches of yore was that you could win a game if you worked hard for layups. The Spurs prove that theory correct. (Of course, the Spurs also win a game in a lot of other ways as well, they are good.)

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History:

Historically I'm not a big fan of the Spurs, I respect what they do, but I revel in beating them. It doesn't always happen now-a-days, so it means so much more now when we do. All time the Jazz are 73 and 91 against the Spurs; however we have a 53 and 28 advantage at home. Last season these two teams played four times in the regular season -- with the Spurs throwing game #3 for rest -- and that one thrown game almost ensured that we would face off again in the playoffs. The Spurs swept the Jazz unceremoniously going 4-0.

THIS season things looked better as the Jazz put up some fight falling to the Spurs 110-100 on their court on November 3rd. We're not a good road team, but we didn't back down when it looked bad. We're at home this time around and we're a great home team.

Thing can be different tonight . . . but the Jazz will need to continue to play selfless team ball and help each other on defense. No team makes a living out of forcing their opponents to make mistakes like the Spurs do. This is going to be a good measuring stick game for us. We know we can beat the Raptors and Magic -- we're supposed to. We've beaten the Lakers twice this year too. But can we beat the Spurs and get the proverbial Ginobili off our backs?

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Scouting, Stats, and Stereotypes:

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The Spurs are a very good team, but we're not without our own talents as well. This year (and last) the Spurs have been exception on offense. They work together to get the best shots, always. They have the most assists this season, and their offense is Top 5 in almost everything. They don't get a lot of offensive boards -- but they hardly ever miss. They aren't without flaws though. Turn overs could be a problem if we are active enough. We're #4 in steals, and they are #19 in TOV%. For a direct comparison, they are #6 in steals, but we're only #8 in TOV%. We take care of the ball better, and we're #2 in assists this year.

The other contention will be rebounds. The Jazz give up a lot of offensive rebounds to the other team (we're 28th in DRB%), and the other team averages 12.3 offensive rebounds a game against us. Really. That's average for this year. That's 29th in the league. The Spurs don't get a lot of their own misses, but that's because they are so few and far in between. It would be abject failure to give them more chances to hurt us because they are already so efficient on offense. On the side side of the floor, the Spurs are really good at protecting their glass (12th DRB%) while we average 13.7 offensive rebounds a game and are 2nd in ORB%. We're going to need extra chances against them, and they're going to do their best to stop that.

Both teams lead the league in three point ability this year -- I think getting hammered by them in the playoffs necessitated this move. I'm glad it happened. Alas, let's look at FTA. We are 8th best at getting to the line as a ratio of FGA, and we're 4th best at getting to the line period (25.2 FTA a game). This isn't going to happen against the Spurs. So again, against a contender, we're going to get hosed. And the game hasn't even started yet. I image they shoot more than we do -- even though they're 17th in the NBA in FTA/GM, but we're 4th.

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Injury Report:

Spurs Injuries --

  • Kawhi Leonard (SG/SF) OUT -- Leonard is out with right knee tendinitis. He's only 21 so he's a bit early for the Spurs to start sitting for age reasons. Snark aside, Leonard is a perfect player for the Spurs and it is clearly a good thing that he's out. Last game Gary Neal started in his place and, well, Neal finished with 29 points (7/10 from downtown) in 35 minutes of action. So . . . well. Welp, even. It doesn't necessarily get easier with Kawhi out. But it is BETTER that he is out.
  • Stephen Jackson (SF/SG) OUT -- S-Jax is going to miss 4-6 weeks with a broken right pinkie finger. I actually have no idea how long ago this injury was, but he has only played 10 games this year. Jackson is another great Spurs player, and I'm happy he's not going to be playing -- but this just streamlines what they do and with him being out there's more overt playing time available to give to Danny Green and Manu Ginobili. So, it's not easy for us when they have all this quality talent on their team at the wing spots.

Jazz Injuries --

  • Derrick Favors (PF/C) OUT -- I'm presuming he's not back yet from his plantar fasciitis just yet, because no one tweeted me about it. I'm fine with that. Enes Kanter is on a hot streak right now (he's no C.J. Miles -- but no one is), and he should be capable of providing and producing when called upon, even if it is against the Spurs.
  • Raja Bell (SG) OUT -- Someone gotta camp out early for tickets for Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. Raja is there to do it . . . "you have my flagrant foul."

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Advantage --

The homer in me sees this as a disadvantage. The realist in me sees this as making the teams a little more equal in the talent department. Neal is fast and can hit threes. Manu is Manu. And Danny Green plays like an All-Star against the Jazz. The Spurs are still super effective from the wing spots even with these injuries. We're less deep when Jeremy Evans is our 4th big, and our bigs pick up fouls against the Spurs like other people pick up pennies in the street. I'm siding with the homer me, and saying the Spurs have the advantage.

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The Game:

The Spurs are in game two of a three games in four nights stretch. Sadly, we're the game after the night off; and not taking advantage of tired legs. San Antonio last played on Monday, an over time game in Houston; and are well rested. They play in Portland tomorrow night. They aren't looking past us to focus on the Blazers, they are a sub .500 team. So was and is Houston. So in effect, we're the game circled on the schedule this week for San Antonio. Well, we are at least until their home game on December 15th hosting the Boston Celtics. So, we're almost on their radar. We're not someone they're going to overlook though. They have that killer instinct and want to get back to discouraging us. If we play hard and fight that's exactly what they don't want. So I expect them to come at us hard in the first quarter. It's what good teams do.

We're even more rested than they are, as we last played in Sunday. The Jazz are nursing a three game win streak right now, and it sure would be great to extend it. I think it should be an after thought though. The Spurs are going to be ready for us and want to say good night to us early. We're at home and should try to keep those old guys up later than they'd want.

The Spurs do the same thing to us over and over again, so we should ALSO be ready for them. Will the end result be any different this time around? I think it can be -- but it's not going to be easy. We can't make life hard on ourselves by coming out soft and slow. Points in the first quarter count as much as points in the fourth do. And I would love to have our wings counter attack theirs and support our inside game.

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Player Focus:

For the Jazz tonight, in lieu of better floor spacing, improved three point attack, and greater sharing on offense -- at the end of the game if it's close we're going to have to slow it down and fight a precision game against the Spurs. The focal point will be Al Jefferson. Jefferson's idol in the NBA is Tim Duncan. Jefferson was one of the few players in the playoffs to step up for us, and he ended up playing better than both his regular season stats or his regular season numbers against the just Spurs displayed. We're going to need Al to be Big tonight. He proved in San Antonio in November that he can score one on one against Duncan. He was efficient down the stretch and able to get it done against a Hall of Famer.

The Jazz will need a lot of that tonight as I kind of think our hot shooting can't last forever. I want Al to succeed. And in order to get there, sadly, it means having to go through the Tim Duncans and Marc Gasol s that he'll have to face this week. He had his way with Dwight Howard already this week. I believe Al is capable of being great on any given night. Tonight would be an awesome night to be great.

And for our Jazz, we're going to need him to kill it on the defensive boards and help up on Spurs dribble penetration. It's hard, and they're the best in the league at getting -- but we need to get stops too. And bereft of a Mark Eaton / Greg Ostertag / John Amaechi -- we need a big guy to lay down the law at the rim. It's not going to be Paul Millsap, he's too small. It's not going to be Enes Kanter, as he's too focused on man defense. It's not going to be Derrick Favors as he's injured. So we're going to need Al to do it on both sides of the court tonight.

He already has a hurt back, but here I am putting more stuff on him to carry. But I know he can do it. That's why I write these things I do!

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X-Factors:

If the Jazz are able to get easy baskets in this game we'll be in it. If we have ineffectual transition opportunities or be forced to take bad shots then we'll be in for a very uphill climb. We're at home, we run better at home, and the crowd gets into it. We have athletes on this team from Marvin Williams and Gordon Hayward as well as guys who do great in transition three point attempts in Mo Williams and Randy Foye. The key to easy baskets, though, is effort. No one can question the effort DeMarre Carroll brings. With him we have a chance to get some easy buckets. And if we do, we'll be in this game.

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Word from the Badguys:

IF I HAD REGULAR 9/5 HOURS YOU WOULD GET MORE OF THESE. NEXT WEEK! I PROMISE!

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As an aside:

I imagine that today Scott Layden and Dennis Lindsey met and exchanged a lot of inter-office mail that was delivered to the wrong address.

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Fearless Prediction:

Jazz win, why? Because it's 12 / 12 / 12.

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