NBA Regular Season Game #26:
San Antonio Spurs (18-4) @ Utah Jazz (6-19)
Let's just all agree that Duncan is a center, and not a power forward, okay? Okay.
The Utah Jazz are on yet another one of their long win streaks this season, and more importantly, have held the "championship" belt for 2 games now. The San Antonio Spurs think it is theirs, as they have a 9-1 record in these NBA Championship Belt games so far this 2013-2014 season. But it's not theirs, we have it; and if they want it then they need to claim it from us. Belts aside (and the Spurs may whip us with it before the night is through) this is a match up between the Western Conference's 2nd best team (second by percentage points) against the conference's worst. The Jazz are 3-9 at home (if you told the teen me that would be our home record one year I would have died), and the Spurs are 9-2 on the road. They're a good team, I'm not denying it. They are a good road team. One of their road wins earlier this season was a win on our own home court already. So they're not afraid of our previously sizable home court advantage. For the all-time series the Jazz are 54-29 in Utah; but the larger trend is that the Jazz are 74-93 against the Spurs in the regular season.
Tonight these "same old" Spurs will be playing against a new Jazz team. A team they haven't faced, and defeated yet. A healthy Jazz team led by Rookie of the Year candidate Trey Burke. Point of emphasis here, Tyrone Corbin was forced to start Alec Burks at point guard the last time these two teams faced off (a 9 point loss).
San Antonio is filled with a good mix of veterans and youth, and are commanded by Gregg Popovich. On the court Tony Parker is less point guard and more surgeon as he slices and dissects defenses. This season he's averaging 18.1 ppg (a John Stockton like 52.3 fg%), 6.0 apg, and 2.5 rpg in 30.4 mpg. The 31 year old Frenchman is in his physical peak right now, while guys like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are still more than capable of getting things done. Duncan, in particular, seems to have found his 14th wind in his career. The 37 year old had a 20-20 game earlier this month. Ultimately we know what we're going to get from the Spurs -- be them newer faces like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, or the old diehards.
And the Spurs are greater than the sum of their parts. They are #5 offensively in PPG and Off RTG, cruising along to 100+ points almost every night. Their defense is #4 in opponents PPG, and their Def RTG is #2. So, basically they are the ideal team that boasts a margin of victory of +9.9 points.
The Jazz are, well, playing better. A big part is health. Another part is coaching. Yet another just seems to be chemistry and getting positive reactions on the court. Trey Burke seems to be performing very well with Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, and a few times a game you see him spoon feeding Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. That's just what we want from him. The starting lineup that includes Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams, aside from looking like a great forward tandem back in 2005, seems to be working for the team as well. If playing, and losing, to the Spurs have taught us anything it's that it never hurts to have a ton of guys on the floor who can make the three pointer.
As a side note tonight we face two French players (Parker and Boris Diaw); in our last game we faced one (Evan Fournier of the Denver Nuggets). Rudy Gobert go to meet with Evan, but will miss out on hanging (?) with Parker and Diaw. But well, at least he's going to get playing time now in the NBDL.
The Jazz have struggled this season against really good teams that know how to play defense. The Jazz have also surprised teams and played with focus and heart. I don't know which Jazz team we're going to end up with tonight; but I hope it's one that look to keep their belt for at least one more game.
Play hard. Play to win.
And Tim Duncan is totally a center.