Spurs-Jazz Preview

The Utah Jazz finally notched their first win this week. Their
chances of picking up another victory when they face the surging
San Antonio Spurs would appear bleak.

Perhaps the only solace for the Jazz is that San Antonio has
lost each of its last two regular-season visits to Utah, but the
Spurs will be seeking a seventh consecutive win when they make
their next one Friday night.

The Jazz started 0-8 for the first time since losing their
inaugural 11 games in 1974-75 while based in New Orleans. They
finally ended that drought Wednesday with a 111-105 victory over
New Orleans’ current team, the Pelicans.

Gordon Hayward led the way with 27 points and 10 assists,
Richard Jefferson scored 22 after totaling 20 points in his
previous three games, and Enes Kanter had 21 points with 10
rebounds.

“I feel great for these guys,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We’ve
been through a lot of struggles, but there’s no quit in them.”

The Jazz (1-8) entered that game not only as the NBA’s lone
winless team but also last in scoring (86.9 points per game),
field-goal percentage (40.1) and 3-point percentage (22.9). They
had easily their best shooting night of the season, hitting 51.4
percent from the field and 9 of 22 on 3-pointers, while reaching
100 points for the first time.

“It’s definitely fun when guys are making shots and you’re
whipping the ball around from side to side. And we were getting
some stops, too,” said Hayward, who scored 22 in the second half to
help his team erase a 16-point deficit.

Utah’s quest for back-to-back wins will come against one of the
league’s best defensive teams. San Antonio (8-1) is allowing a
Western Conference-low 90.1 points per game, including 86.2 during
its six-game win streak.

The Spurs limited Washington to 36.3 percent shooting in a 92-79
victory Wednesday.

“Defensively, that’s where we want to be,” said Tony Parker, who
led six players in double figures with 16 points. “We’re going to
try to keep getting better. Right now, it’s pretty good.”

San Antonio has won 12 of the last 14 meetings with Utah,
including an opening-round playoff sweep in 2012, but fell 99-96 in
its most recent visit to Salt Lake City on Dec. 12. The Jazz’s two
leading scorers from that game, however, are no longer on the team
(Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson), and neither is the player who made
the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer (Mo Williams).

The Spurs, meanwhile, still have their two leading scorers from
that game in Parker and Tim Duncan, but Duncan is averaging 7.0
points on 5-of-27 shooting in the last three games.

“It happens. I don’t worry about Tim. He’ll be fine. He needs to
keep shooting,” Parker said.

Duncan averaged 20.0 points and 16.0 rebounds in last season’s
three meetings with Utah while Parker scored 22.7 per game.

Hayward, averaging 24.3 points in his last three games, has
averaged 9.0 in 13 matchups with the Spurs on 33.3 percent
shooting.