NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 23:
San Antonio Spurs 96 at Utah Jazz 99
The measuring stick game...
.... and we measured up quite nicely. Tonight the Utah Jazz fought hard against a much more experienced and disciplined club -- that like all monster movies -- just never goes away. While this isn't the "long recap" (and yes, I still will be doing those), I will go into a little bit of detail here.
The Spurs are the best team in the Western Conference for a reason (they were leading coming into this game, but the L and an OKC W flip flopped them). Everyone knows their place, and even without two key rotation players (Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson) they can still run smoothly without a hitch. I'm not just saying nice things about the team we beat -- I mean it. The Spurs were up by double digits three times in the first 16 minutes of this game. I don't mean that they were up near double digits, but we'd score, then they'd score, and so forth. No. I mean that it was a 1 pt lead that went up to a 10 pt lead, then we'd fight back and bring it down, and then they'd go up by 10 again, and then we'd get close, and then they'd put it to double digits again.
This happened three times in 16 minutes, more or less. They are a better team than we are, and a big part of that is how they attack and attack and attack in the first quarter. We're notoriously bad in the first quarter of games and usually spend the next three quarters fighting uphill. We had to do it again vs the Spurs. Not just because we start slow; but because they start fast.
It was the Tim Duncan and Al Jefferson show in the first quarter. Danny Green and Randy Foye had appearances in it as well, but it was the marquee match-up of the two remaining legit back to the basket bigs in the league setting the tone early. This actually, "kinda" worked out in our favor. We were down but it prevented San Antonio's auxiliary players from getting into the groove of this game. In the second quarter our bench (+ Paul Millsap -- see, this is better than just 5 bench players out there at a time to fend for themselves) went on a 17-3 run and we took the lead for what seemed like good. A huge factor in this was the decision to press in the backcourt by Tyrone Corbin -- sicking (siccing?) DeMarre Carroll and Earl Watson to hinder the Spurs bench players. We played great team defense, there was a lot of physical play and deflections were created. It wasn't the normal type of game you see. We adjusted to what the refs were letting the teams do, and took control of the game. The Jazz starters then finished the half strong, going on a 7-0 to be up nearly double digits on the best in the West.
Normally this is where we'd be happy with the moral victory. Everyone knows the Spurs were going to come out blazing. They did. They tied the game up against our starters, and when we went bench vs. bench again to end the third they countered a 5-0 run with one of their own. The third quarter ended with both teams tied.
To start the fourth Ty went with 5 bench guys (when we know that when he mixes it up he has success -- he should know it too as well), and Gregg Popovich did too (except for injuries Gary Neal was starting). Our guys held their own against Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner, and Manu Ginobili for a few minutes . . . but they eventually went on that second run, and retook the lead on an 10-4 stretch. Corbin countered with bringing some starters back and we cut the lead down to striking distance only for the Spurs to push ahead even farther with an 8-3 run. Time was running out.
Corbin kept mixing and matching and we ended the game with Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson. And this lineup went on a 14-3 run to finish the game. With the ending being a Mo Williams three pointer to win the game.
A huge part of this game was the return of Derrick Favors (12 minutes) -- while he didn't kill it on the court, he showed that he was capable of playing again. More obviously, off the bench Gordon did a hell of a job scoring 19 points (4/6 from downtown), pulling down 7 boards (2nd best on the team), and dishing it off for 6 assists (1st on the team). Hayward also had a transition block on Gary Neal that would have been another 2 points. The margin of victory for this game was one shot. Hayward did it again with defense to make sure the margin wasn't smaller.
While Mo is the obvious hero with the redemption mode game winner (he was 2/8 for the game and 0/3 from downtown at that point), we're not in an offensive grove without Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. They combined for 45 points, 16 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. These are big time numbers from nationally overlooked players. Both of them took turns scoring on Tim Duncan one on one. Duncan had a 20/20 game with 6 blocks -- but he also got beat one on one in the post by Al, and off the bounce by Paul. These were not one time things -- this was the Jazz game plan and Duncan began to show some cracks. He's not the same guy he was a decade ago, naturally. He's still one of the greatest ever. But I don't ever remember other teams planning their offense around going at Karl Malone. Just sayin'.
Much more details in the long recap -- but on John Stockton Day (12/12/12) how else was this game going to end than our PG hitting a clutch three with no time left on the clock?
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