SAN ANTONIO — The cast of characters has changed on both sides, but the results remain constant in the one-sided match-up that occurs when the Utah Jazz visit the San Antonio Spurs.
Complete with the standard dead-eye outside shooting, fundamental teamwork, and stifling defense the Spurs are known for, San Antonio dominated the Jazz from start to finish, earning a 104-89 win, Saturday night.
The Spurs' starters did most of their damage in abbreviated time on the court, including all-star guard Manu Ginobili scoring 23 points in just 23 minutes. For the Jazz, Al Jefferson scored 21 points after sitting out Friday's game with the Sixers. Josh Howard had his best game as a Jazzman with 18 points and seven rebounds.
Treys away: The Jazz managed to trim an early first-quarter deficit to five points, at 23-18 after 12 minutes. That’s when San Antonio went on the full offensive. The second quarter saw the red-hot Spurs putting on a 3-point shooting display, hitting a pristine 7-of-8 attempts (87.5 percent) from downtown, with five of them coming from Ginobili. This included a deadly one-minute stretch where Ginobili, Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner each drained a three. Gregg Popovich’s veteran squad finished 10-of-16 (62.5 percent).
Conversely, the Jazz struggled dramatically from long distance, hitting a paltry 2-of-16 (12.5 percent). Utah shot the same amount of treys, but made eight less. If you’re doing the math at home, San Antonio outscored the Jazz 30-6 just on 3-pointers.
New Year’s resolutions: Here are some resolutions the Jazz might want to consider making based on trends seen in Saturday's outing:
- Pass the ball around more selflessly: The Jazz only tallied 11 assists on 33 field goals made vs. the Spurs — a mere 33 percent. On a team where the percentage is traditionally high, this is indicative of a team that is comprised of many newcomers and young players trying to mesh.
- Play within the offense: This is tied directly with the previous point. While there were some positive things that happened, there were many instances where the Jazz reverted to one-on-one play that yielded forced shots and subsequently easy opportunities for the Spurs.
- Don’t let the middle quarters dictate the game’s outcome: San Antonio distanced themselves easily during the second and third quarters, outscoring Utah 60-42. In the previous two road games, it was the same quarters that doomed the Jazz’s chances.
- Getting better production from the guards and wings: Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris, Raja Bell, and Earl Watson combined to shoot just 5-of-29, one night after their play pushed the Jazz past the Philadelphia 76ers. Their consistency is important going forward.
David Smith will provide instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage this season. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.