Spurs unable to challenge overwhelming Jazz

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The Spurs lost their 4th straight game, 110-99, at the hands of an overwhelming performance from the now 1st seeded Jazz. Even without two All-Star guards, as Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley were still recovering from leg injuries, the Jazz dominated. Bojan Bogdanovic continued his recent stretch of hot play, leading all scorers with 25 points while Rudy Gobert added 24 of his own and DeMar DeRozan paced the Spurs with 22 points and 6 assists.

If ever the start of a game was an indicator of things to come, this was it. Coach Popovich had to call a timeout just 40 seconds into the contest after the Spurs found themselves down 5-0 after two poor defensive efforts and a careless turnover. The Spurs came out of the break more focused, but it was clear they were fighting an uphill battle. Unable to drive to the rim with Rudy Gobert patrolling the paint, the Spurs’ penetration went nowhere and they were forced to make do with contested jumpers even more so than usual.

Still, the Spurs managed to keep the game respectable well into the 2nd quarter, trailing by just 5 with 6 minutes to go in the half. Even then, though, the Spurs never really appeared to be a threat to take the lead, relying as they were on the Jazz missing open shots to stay in the game. The home team’s superior spacing eventually took its toll and they closed with a 20-8 push on the backs of Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson to take a 17 point advantage into halftime.

The 3rd quarter was more of the same, as the Jazz pushed their lead out to 25 and seemed capable of thwarting any momentary Spurs’ run just by asserting themselves enough to maintain a comfortable margin. Devin Vassell hit the Spurs’ first three pointer of the night nearly 5 minutes into the 2nd half, which sums up the game pretty well. At that point the Silver & Black were just 1 of 8 from deep. Despite some solid play to close out the quarter, the Spurs still found themselves down 17 headed into the last stanza.

The last 12 minutes were mostly meaningless, and though the Spurs fought hard enough to shrink the final margin down to just 11, the game was never really in question and Coach Popovich finally pulled the plug with 2:02 left.

Game Notes

  • It’s easy to see the wear and tear of the season, and the Spurs’ schedule in particular in games like this. The Spurs never looked inattentive or lackadaisical, but they still failed to get back on defense multiple times. They left a little too much room in front of three point shooters and lost out on 50/50 balls most times. It would be easy to criticize those plays in a vacuum, but there comes a point when there’s only so much a player can give on a given night. There are larger issues with this team than just fatigue, but there’s no question that fatigue might be the most dangerous issue they face in the short term.
  • It seemed early on like Jakob Poeltl might be a key to the Spurs’ offense in this game. The Jazz allowed Gobert to roam freely off the Austrian big man to cut off penetration, with the expectation that he could recover before Jakob could get to the rim. That led to the Spurs big man catching the ball deep in the paint several times and putting up 6 points in the 1st quarter. Unfortunately, that did not continue. Jakob got into foul trouble early in the 2nd quarter and didn’t score another point the entire game.
  • Gobert’s impact around the rim cannot be overstated. For most of the game, the Spurs refused to even challenge him inside, even completely abandoning a fast break with a numbers advantage solely because Gobert had hustled back on defense.
  • The Spurs finished the night with 13 turnovers, not far over their season average. But their turnovers in this game were the worst kind. Nearly every Spurs ball handler, at some point, drove into the paint, usually along the baseline and found themselves trapped. Every time, they tried to either drop it off in the paint or fling it out to the wing, but the Jazz defenders knew they didn’t need to collapse on penetration because Gobert is always near the rim, so there was always a defender waiting on those passes. Those kinds of live ball turnovers, where the defense instantly creates a transition opportunity with a numbers advantage, are devastating.

Next game: Vs the Jazz on Wednesday

The Spurs will get another crack at the Jazz on Wednesday, and even though the Pelicans aren’t exactly knocking down the door to take 10th place in the West, it probably would be a good thing for the Spurs to get a win at some point.

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