Utah Jazz know San Antonio Spurs will provide a challenge
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SAN ANTONIO — Earlier this season, Earl Watson, all 73 inches and 199 pounds of him, stood up to 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki when he didn't like how the big German treated a teammate.
Months later, Watson openly invited 6-foot-11 DeMarcus Cousins, who is more menacing than the Mavs' MVP, to bump into him like he had against Devin Harris on multiple occasions.
So, if you think going up against an NBA powerhouse like the San Antonio Spurs intimidates the Jazz's feisty spark plug, well, please re-read those first two sentences.
Sure, the Spurs have won 10 games in a row.
Yes, they've had the Jazz's number this season and over the years.
And Utah is well aware coaching wizard Gregg Popovich has worked his magic to turn his crew into the Western Conference's best team and a legit NBA title contender.
But Watson — and his teammates — say the underdog Jazz aren't about to back down now that an imposing San Antonio squad stands in their way for the next two games.
"To get to the playoffs you can't run from certain teams," Watson said. "You have to face every challenge and embrace it."
The Jazz better bear hug the heck out of the Spurs during their important back-to-back set today in Alamo Country and Monday in the Beehive State.
One or two wins should keep Utah in the mix as it remains a couple of games in the loss column behind Houston and Denver, and only a game in the loss column behind Dallas for the final playoff spots.
Getting swept by the Spurs could be disastrous for Utah's postseason hopes, considering the rough week the Jazz have even after their Texas two-step.
After their quick home pit stop Monday, they head back to the Lone Star State for a critical contest against Houston on Wednesday, followed by their final back-to-back of the season in New Orleans (where they lost in February) and at Memphis (a surging squad).
For now, the "just take it one game at a time" line both Watson and Harris rattled off this weekend seems appropriate.
Which brings the Jazz back to San Antonio for this Sunday night showdown.
"Nothing in the NBA is going to be easy. We look forward to the challenge," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "We've just got to find a way and dig deep and find a way to win these games. We've got to find a way to do it. They can be beat."
The Jazz must — say it together — find a way to beat a team that hasn't lost in three weeks, has won 13 of 14 games and has downed Utah twice already this season.
"Obviously they're playing pretty well right now," Harris said, noting the Spurs pounded the Mardi Gras out of New Orleans on Friday. "They can be beat, but we've got to come out aggressive and deliver punches just like we're going to take them. ... Be passive, (and) they're going to knock you out very early."
The problem, however, is the Spurs aren't just talented. They're basketball-savvy. With Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, they've got a lot of championship experience.
With Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, Daniel Green, Kawhi Leonard and Matt Bonner, they've got an abundance of complementary pieces.
And don't forget their two midseason acquisitions, who have made the rich all the richer while reminding the NBA how shrewd a front office the organization employs.
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