The San Antonio Spurs’ veteran prowess was enough to overcome
one of the NBA’s best individual performances this season.
Their experience – and their stingy defense – figure to be
enough to hold off a suddenly improved Utah Jazz team in Salt Lake
City on Saturday night.
San Antonio (18-4) claimed a 117-110 home win over Minnesota on
Friday despite Kevin Love’s 42 points – three shy of the NBA high
in 2013-14 – behind the strength of its seasoned core.
Tony Parker scored 29 points, while 16 of Manu Ginobili’s 20
points came in the fourth quarter, during which the Spurs outscored
the Timberwolves 37-21. Ginobili is shooting 54.1 percent over his
last nine games, including 47.7 percent from 3-point range.
Tim Duncan finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds for his
second-consecutive double-double and third in the last five
“It’s got to show up somewhere,” Duncan said of the trio’s
experience. His 8.6 rebounds per game are the fewest of his career,
though he’s averaging 11.1 over his last eight contests.
“If you want to call it that, it is what it is. We know what’s
going on out there, especially when it gets down to crunch time and
things really count. We’ve made plays long enough that we know
where each other is going to be.”
The Spurs needed a late comeback in a 91-82 win at Utah on Nov.
15, their 13th victory in 15 meetings and seventh straight. Parker
scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter when they
outscored the Jazz 31-15. San Antonio finished with a season-high
22 fast-break points – which it matched Friday.
The Jazz (6-19) still own the league’s worst record but look
better of late, splitting their last 10 with a 103-93 victory at
Denver on Friday.
They appear to be dramatically improved offensively with rookie
Trey Burke in the mix after he missed the first 12 games with a
broken finger suffered in the preseason. Utah is averaging 98.5
points with 21.9 assists in 13 games with him after averaging 88.6
and 17.7 without him. Burke is 14 of 34 (41.2 percent) from long
range over the last eight games while the team is shooting 44.9
percent from beyond the arc during that stretch.
“We have all of our guys,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We have
Burke had 10 points and 10 assists Friday while Gordon Hayward
scored a season-high 30 to go along with a career-best 13
Derrick Favors scored 20 points and grabbed a career-high 18
rebounds in the first meeting with San Antonio but Hayward was 5 of
23 from the field as Utah shot 38.5 percent with Burke still
Hayward is averaging 10.3 points while shooting 36.3 percent in
10 career games against the Spurs, who are likely to test Utah’s
San Antonio ranks among the league leaders, limiting teams to
43.0 percent shooting and 93.6 points per game. However, the Spurs
have been a little more vulnerable lately, allowing 102.2 points
over the last six contests. Tiago Splitter’s absence certainly
doesn’t appear to be helping as he missed his third straight game
Friday due to left calf tightness.