The Utah Jazz (51-31) defeated the San Antonio Spurs (61-21) tonight by the final score of 101-97. In consecutive games the Jazz have held both the Spurs and the Golden State Warriors down and beaten them, but done so while holding the top two teams in the West to under 100 points. Against the Dubs, head coach Steve Kerr took out most of his starters but played some deep into the fourth (as late as the 3 min mark when Zaza Pachulia came back in). Against the Spurs, head coach Gregg Popovich kept in cold shooting Kawhi Leonard and ancient Tony Parker past the time when Quin Snyder cleared his bench.
Unlike the GSW win, this one wasn’t just a product of everyone hitting threes. This was one predicated upon defense, forcing turn overs, and working the ball around for the best shot. I’m not mad when the Jazz can gun from deep early in the shot clock if the ball goes in. But tonight was a much more Jazzy game by methodology.
Utah stole the ball 10 times and forced 15 turn overs. The resulting 4 fast-break points was a virtuous bounty of easy buckets for the slowest team in the league. Utah, on the other end, gave no quarter when running back to defend fast breaks. Gordon Hayward changed a shot on an open layup that was recovered by the good guys. And late in the fourth Dante Exum just came out of no where to steal a ball on a 3-1 break.
It’s that defense that Dennis Lindsey prizes so much because it travels, from home to the road. And Utah may be starting the NBA Playoffs on the road this year.
This game was somewhat at arms length the entire night. The Jazz would go up by 16 back when both teams were still playing their starters. The Spurs reserves were much sharper than the Jazz deep bench, who had at times behaved like they had never seen one another before. San Antone would actually retake the lead in the fourth, but the defense of Jeff Withey, Alec Burks, and Dante Exum kept San Antonio on the ropes, long enough for free throws to seal the deal.
Gordon Hayward was fantastic, being very picky on when to assert himself on offense. He would shoot 7/9 from the field, and not get to the FT line even once. On the other side of things, he hounded Kawhi Leonard to a crappy shooting night. As soon as Hayward sat for good Leonard was able to score a little more freely. But at the end of the night Leonard’s 5/13 did not look MVP like at all.
Rudy Gobert did not have to play much, and missed a double-double by a rebound. He would have had it if he played more than 20 something minutes. But there’s no point. His 13 / 9 / 3 was enough to get the job done. He did miss handle on a few alley-oop attempts. And sadly he did not get the 3 assists I was looking for, so he could finish the season with an Epic 1000+ / 1000+ / 200+ / 100+, which very few bigs have ever done.
I guess that leaves something for him to do next season.
George Hill was a pest on Tony Parker, but Parker was still able to get his shots from midrange whenever he wanted. And like the GSW game, we saw the opponents take away Rudy’s roll game. The Jazz made the right passes to the corner as a result, but the Spurs recovered much quicker on defense than GSW did.
A solid win, and a 51 win season are now in the books. The Jazz have gone undefeated at home since the 27 point home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 1st. And the Jazz are now 12-2 when George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert all play in the same game. We even saw them play together! Imagine that! The normative starters actually on the floor! Wow!
The Jazz tip off against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, April 15th. The game will be at 10:30 PM EST on ESPN (8:30 Utah); and the location is to be determined.