Duncan has 22 and 12 as Spurs beat Jazz 100-84

Now that Tim Duncan is playing well again, the last thing he

wants to do is sit.

Duncan told teammate Tony Parker he was ”very convincing” when

lobbying San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich to keep him in the

lineup, even if it was the Spurs’ fourth game in five nights and

they were facing the team with the worst record in the Western

Conference.

Popovich usually rests his 37-year-old forward during stretches

like this, but Duncan rewarded the club with another double-double.

He had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Spurs to their fourth

straight victory Saturday night, 100-84 over the Utah Jazz.

Sparked by his 23-point, 21-rebound performance against Atlanta

on Dec. 2, Duncan has returned to vintage form after a slow start

to the season. He is averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds over his

last six games.

”The first 20 games, it’s not really that hard to do much

better,” Duncan said. ”I’m still not shooting the ball well, but

I’m trying to play hard and find ways to contribute.”

Kawhi Leonard added 13 points to help the Spurs (19-4) coast

comfortably past the Jazz (6-20) after a big first-half run.

”We were never worried about Timmy. I’ve been saying (it) since

the beginning of the season,” said Parker, who had 15 points.

”He’s the last guy we ever need to worry about. But now he’s

getting aggressive and he’s getting his shot back.”

From the beginning, the Jazz pressured Parker and dared Duncan

to shoot open elbow jumpers. Duncan missed his first three outside

shots.

”He executed well, the shots just didn’t go down. But he kept

playing like he always does, so it was great,” Popovich said.

Trey Burke had 20 points and Gordon Hayward scored 18 for the

Jazz, who shot 39 percent from the field.

The Jazz were coming off consecutive road wins, including a

103-93 victory Friday night in Denver. They had reached 100 points

in three of the last four games but were no match for San Antonio’s

smothering defense.

”We didn’t play with the pep we have had the last few games

because of the back-to-back. But I thought the effort was there,

just didn’t have the same spark,” coach Tyrone Corbin said.

On the other end, the Spurs set a series of picks to allow

penetration and then passes for open 3-pointers. If that failed,

they went to their famously fundamental post player on the block.

In just 28 minutes, Duncan showed much of his repertoire with bank

shots, fallaways, hooks and tip-ins.

”In the post, he’s aggressive and making strong moves,” said

Parker, who was creative in getting Duncan the ball where he could

gain confidence.

San Antonio played its fourth consecutive game without the

defensive influence of starting center Tiago Splitter, who has a

strained calf. The Spurs, per 100 possessions, score 14 more points

than they give up when Splitter is on the floor. But they hardly

missed him against the Jazz in the first of a four-game road trip

for the Spurs, who are 10-2 away from home.

”They are a veteran club. They know what to do, when to do it

and how to do it. They showed us,” Corbin said.

On Nov. 15 in Utah, the Spurs needed a fourth-quarter rally to

wipe away a seven-point deficit and win 91-82. Parker scored 14 of

his 22 points in the fourth quarter of that one.

After a dreadful start when Burke was out with a broken finger,

the Jazz recovered enough to split their last 10 games. The rookie

point guard was hot early and gave Parker a taste of his own

medicine on a series of floaters and step-back jumpers in the first

half.

More than 6 minutes into the game, the Spurs had only six

points. But over the remainder of the first half, they used an

especially efficient offense to build a 55-40 lead at the break.

The reserves, led by Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills, sparked a

21-6 run to help San Antonio gain control.

”Our job is to come off the bench and bring that extra gear to

turn it up a bit, intensity-wise. It starts on defense and if we

can capitalize, it translates to good offense,” Mills said.

Belinelli and Manu Ginobili each had 11 points off the San

Antonio bench, which contributed 47 points. The Spurs outrebounded

the Jazz 55-42 and outscored Utah 50-36 in the paint.

”They hit the glass really hard and they have a lot of big

bodies, so we knew that was going to be a big part of us winning

this game. But we had good focus from everybody and when the balls

were there to be had, we just went and got them,” Duncan said.

Richard Jefferson made a 3-pointer to draw the Jazz within

double digits for the only time in the second half at 61-52, but

Duncan scored twice around a 3-pointer by Leonard and the Spurs

were back in control.

”It was a very good win against a young team that is starting

to play better. We respect them and did a good job of playing horn

to horn,” Duncan said.

NOTES: Utah C Rudy Gobert and G Ian Clark were assigned to the

club’s D-League affiliate in Bakersfield. Both earned playing time

earlier this season when the Jazz were dealing with multiple

injuries. … Belinelli made all three of his 3-point attempts to

improve his NBA-leading mark to 56.5 percent. … Jeremy Evans

matched his career high with 11 rebounds for Utah. . Oddly, the

Jazz had a season-high 11 blocks to one for the Spurs.