DeRozan’s 26 points leads Spurs past Jazz 110-97
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs are starting to feel better about their play, which is a welcome sign for the former defensive stalwarts following a series of blowout losses.
Donovan Mitchell scored 27 points for Utah, which had its two-game winning streak snapped.
LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 points for San Antonio, which won its second straight after dropping four of five.
“It’s a marathon,” Aldridge said. “You can’t get too high, can’t get too low, can’t get caught up in one loss (or) one win. You know we’ve had great games where we’ve played the right way and had good wins. And we’ve had games where we laid an egg out there. So, you have to enjoy it, learn from it, and just stay hungry.”
The “Spurs Way” was a model of consistency and continuity for two decades, but now San Antonio is simply trying to find its way two months into the season after a tumultuous offseason.
The Spurs lost franchise cornerstones Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to retirement and free agency, respectively, traded Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto and lost Kyle Anderson to Memphis as a free agent.
The fallout from the offseason turnover has been most evident defensively.
The Spurs had lost by more than 30 points only five times in coach Gregg Popovich’s first 1,758 regular-season contests, but it happened three times in a recent four-game stretch.
The dubious run ended with a 139-105 loss at Utah on Dec. 4, which made Sunday’s victory over the Jazz even more meaningful.
“I think it’s just the beginning of what we can be,” said Gay, who tied his career high in rebounds. “People forget we’re still learning. We’re trusting each other and we’re continuing to be a pretty good defensive team.”
Mitchell was held scoreless in the first half as San Antonio raced to a 54-36 lead while holding Utah to 36 percent shooting.
“Sometimes when your offense, you’re not executing, it just hurts your defense,” Mitchell said. “That’s what we put our staple on, defensively, and being able to execute out of our defense.”
The Spurs held the Jazz to 18 points in the first and second quarter and set a season low for points allowed by an opponent in the first half.
“The last couple of games we looked better at the defensive end,” Popovich said. “More communication, a little more understanding. Guys get used to playing with each other and understanding what the process is for the way we want to play. I think it’s sinking in, so we’ll see if it continues.”
Ricky Rubio added 26 for the Jazz and Rudy Gobert was the only other player in double figures, with 12 points.
MOMMA’S NOT HAPPY
DeRozan has been thrilled playing for Popovich following an offseason trade, but it’s causing some family tension.
“It’s crazy,” DeRozan said smiling. “I got cussed out by my mom this morning because she’s been dying to meet Pop. She told me today I better make sure she gets to meet him. So, to have that excitement from my mom, being able to play for a guy like Pop, that’s respected the way he is, it’s definitely an honor.”
ON THE BALL
Gay has five double-doubles this season through 23 games. His career high is eight in 2016.
Jazz: Mitchell missed all six of his shot attempts in going scoreless in the first half. . Every Utah player was healthy and available with the exception of the three players in the G League.
Spurs: Popovich tied Pat Riley for fourth all-time in league history with 1,210 career victories. . Davis Bertans missed the game due to an undisclosed personal reason. . Dante Cunningham also missed the game, sitting out due to abdominal soreness. .. The Spurs’ previous low points by an opponent in the first half was 39 points, which happened twice.
Jazz: At Oklahoma City on Monday night.
Spurs: Home against Phoenix on Tuesday.