Spurs Can’t Overcome Jazz Fourth Quarter Run in 128-117 Loss
In their last game at the AT&T Center, the Spurs celebrated fan appreciation night. Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan (who did not play) addressed the crowd ahead of the game, thanking them for cheering on the team all season. Sochan had one last thing to say before walking off of the court:
“And if you’re a Jazz fan, you’re going to lose!”
He was wrong. As the Spurs lost their last game in San Antonio this season 128-117 to the Utah Jazz, splitting the season series. The Silver and Black were competitive for about 42 minutes, but ultimately could not overcome a 19-6 4th quarter run from the Jazz.
Utah started the game attacking the Spurs defense with hard drives to the rim that led to good looks on kick out threes. The Jazz finished with 70 points in the paint. Talen Horton-Tucker, who finished the game with 41 points, led the way for the Jazz in the first half, scoring at will near the basket. He bullied his way by the Spurs perimeter defenders, either finishing athletically at the rim, or hitting mid-range fade aways near the paint. He scorched the nets from deep as well, shooting 6 of 11 from range.
San Antonio managed to stay in the game by turning the Jazz over and getting to the line. They were led by their starting backcourt of Tre Jones and Malaki Branham who did a great job attacking the paint. Walker Kessler who has been a deterrent at the rim this season finished the game with just 2 blocks, in-part due to the Spurs ability to score on runners and pull up J’s in the lane. Jones finished the game with 17 points, 6 assists and 3 steals, leading the offense that was clicking.
Defense was the main issue for the Spurs. They allowed the Jazz to shoot 54% from the field, and 39% from three point range. Utah’s guards were able to get the first step on San Antonio’s perimeter defenders, and the Spurs help defense routinely let bigs get behind them for lobs and dump offs. They also missed skip passes to shooters who found themselves wide open. The Jazz took advantage of those mistakes with big nights from Horton-Tucker, Kris Dunn and Udoka Azubuike.
Going into the 4th quarter, the Spurs were in position to secure one last victory in San Antonio, but a major Utah run led by THT made it a double digit lead with 6 minutes to play. The Spurs turned the ball over, and let the Jazz attack them in transition to blow open a 19 point lead. With less than 5-minutes to play, Horton-Tucker was just a few buckets shy of his 40-point game. While the Jazz ran inefficient offense to get their leading scorer a milestone, the Spurs chipped away. With a minute left, the Spurs got the game back down to 7, after a big steal and score from Jones and Branham.
Unfortunately, the Spurs could not sustain that run, as the Jazz beat their press defense, and held on to a close win. Other than the 19-6 run, this was a tight game from a team lacking three of their best scorers in Devin Vassell, Johnson and Sochan. Branham led the Spurs in scoring, going for 21 points, on 7 of 12 shooting from the field. Zach Collins had a solid game, stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.
The Spurs will travel to Golden State on Friday night for the start of a 3-game west coast road trip next.
- This team can really pass the ball. They had 31 assists against Utah, and showed some beautiful ball movement when the offense was really clicking. Collins ability to hit guys on cuts is a unique skill for a big man, and it opens up so much for their offense running out of the high post. Sandro Mamukelashvili is going to try to create magic with the ball every time he touches it. He makes some eye-popping highlight passes, like the quick find to Keita Bates-Diop on a ball reversal in the 3rd quarter. To get 10 assists from your big men is something that makes this offense a lot more fun to watch.
- It’s safe to say Malaki Branham is back. After struggling to start the month of March, the rookie guard has come on strong over his last 4 games. The biggest change has been his shot diet. He’s getting to the basket more, instead of being utilized as a spot up shooter. He’s shooting 56% on shots at the rim and out to 10-feet this season. He’s so shifty getting the the paint, using his length and ability to change speeds to get to a spot where he can rise above smaller guard defenders for runners and hooks. The 3-point shooting has cooled down from his hot February stretch, and he’s adapting by putting the ball on the deck. It’s great to see a 19-year-old change the way he plays to find success when something isn’t working. He’s got a bright future ahead of him as a scorer in this league.
- Shoutout to a couple of unsung heroes for the Spurs. Bates-Diop has been great over the last few games. With the wing rotation changing on a nightly basis due to injury, he’s remained a steady presence for the squad, filling in for the starters. He’s actually started in more games than he’s come off of the bench, which shows you what kind of season it’s been. He added in 15 points for the Spurs tonight, and always seems to make the right play on both ends – just a really solid glue guy. Devonte Graham looked a bit more like himself tonight, too. Since coming back from injury, he’s struggled to get into a good rhythm, but tonight he was a key player on a lot of the Spurs runs with his hot shooting. He scored 17 points off the bench, and also added in 6 assists.