The Jazz (23-28) head into San Antonio one night after taking down the Phoenix Suns 129-97. That 129 points was the same amount they put on the Warriors just before that, and ties the season high, so it’s fair to say the offense is really clicking. Knock on wood, but the Jazz are on a four game winning streak. Some things really must have been said after the loss to the league-worst Atlanta Hawks, because the Jazz have really put some things together since then - check out this whirlwind of a play from last night!
The Spurs (34-20) continue to be the model of excellence, despite Kawhi Leonard being in and out of lineups with a wide variety of injuries, an aging Manu Ginobili and few offensive focal points outside of LaMarcus Aldridge. It’s quite frankly amazing what the Spurs have been doing without as many “big names”, with with veterans Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol joining Aldridge as the only 10+ point scorers per game. They’ve made moves like starting second year guard Dejounte Murray over 17 year veteran Tony Parker and had 10 players average over 20 minutes in the games they’ve played. What keeps the Spurs going is their league wide 2nd-best defense (101.2 DRTG), and Pop’s ability to get the most out of his players.
They come into this game with only 5 wins in their last ten games, with losses to the Hawks, Pacers, 76ers, and Lakers. The problem is that this is almost certainly a schedule loss for the Jazz. Not only did they have to travel late at night between cities, on a back-to-back, to face the Spurs, this happened:
Originally scheduled to land in San Antonio at 1:29am, they are now at least 2 hours behind that schedule, and once they arrive, they still must travel to hotel and check in. Settling in at 4:30-5:00am seems like a best case IF they leave PHX right now.— Ken Clayton (@k_clayt) February 3, 2018
(S/o to TheNextGM!)
I’m not on NBA twitter but rumor has it that the Jazz were delayed even further past this point. Perhaps Quin plays everyone less - Joe Johnson is confirmed out for rest, for example - but anything can happen!
When: Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 • 9:00 PM ET
Where: AT&T Center • San Antonio, TX
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, KENS
Radio: 1280 and 97.5 The Zone, WOAI 1200AM
Dante Exum - Shoulder - Out indefinitely, but cleared for non-contact drills.
Rodney Hood - Lower Left Leg Contusion - Probable
Thabo Sefolosha - MCL avulsion, out for the season
Joe Johnson - Rest
San Antonio Spurs
Brandon Paul - Back Spasms - Questionable
Kawhi Leonard - Quad - Out indefinitely
Rudy Gay - Heel - Out, expected to be back after All-Star Break
What To Watch For:
Pace and Three Point Shooting
On the season, the Jazz’s pace is at 97.30 - bottom 5 in the league. In the last two games, they ratcheted it all the way up to 101.6 - top ten, while going 29 of 57 from three. According to my research on BBReference, before these two games, the Jazz were 1-7 whenever the pace was above 100, and shot 74/238, or 31.1%, from three, so I’m not sure exactly what clicked and caused the huge change over the winning streak. Perhaps it’s an anomalous blip in the ups and downs of an NBA season, but look to see how our pace and shooting affect the game against this defense-heavy Spurs team.
The Jazz’s second highest scorer is listed as probable tonight. The Jazz seem to go on winning streaks when key players are injured or otherwise hurt - remember the Rudy injury back in December that coincided with the six-game winning streak? Either way, though Rodney may be on the trade block, if he plays tonight, we hope he can come in with a efficient, productive night within the flow of the offense, and play smart team defense.
Most Likely Jazz-Killer: LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge is doing it all for the Spurs this season, averaging 22.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks on the season. Much was said about Aldridge’s trade request at the beginning of the season, and Pop’s ability to bring him back in and integrate him back into the team for his best season in San Antonio thus far. He’s been “on a mission” to continue to bring success to the Spurs, and continuing his night-in, night-out contributions are something the Jazz will need to dampen if they want to pull out this win.