Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SAN ANTONIO — The fact that they’re playing Friday night against the team with the best record in the Western Conference and second best in the NBA is almost inconsequential to the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz are more worried about themselves than their opponent as they try to right a rocky ship that has dropped 10 of 14 games since the All-Star break.
Utah — which dropped to .500 for the first time since Jan. 11 with Wednesday’s loss to Houston — plays the Spurs at the AT&T Center Friday, 6:30 p.m. MDT.
Coach Tyrone Corbin has been trying everything to halt his team’s slide, which has put them a game and a half out of the final playoff spot for the right — as of today — to play the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’ve got to cut down our stretches where we don’t play our best on both sides of the floor,’’ Corbin said after practice Thursday morning. “Those moments can’t be for two or three minutes. We’ve got to make sure we play the right way for 48 minutes.’’
Corbin was pleased with the determination his team played with in coming back from a 27-point deficit to within five with 90 seconds to play against the Rockets, but disappointed in their start when they fell behind by 10 in the first quarter.
“I don’t question whether these guys want to do it,’’ Corbin said. “Some of it is anxiety. We’ve got to play through this and be ready to come out and play a 48-minute game.’’
For the Jazz, San Antonio is a tough enough place to win, where they’ve only won twice in the past 24 meetings stretching back to 1999. Tim Duncan has played for the Spurs during those years, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have been part of the team for the past decade, although Parker has been out the last three weeks with a severe ankle sprain.
Duncan is still going strong as ever as he put up 25 points and 13 rebounds against Andrew Bogut and the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night. Ginobli added 16 points and seven assists off the bench.
Parker may be ready to come back for Friday’s game, but if not, the other Spurs starters are expected to be Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter on the inside and Danny Green and Cory Joseph on the guardline, with Joseph starting in place of Parker.
“We’ve got to be ready to play. These guys want to control the tempo of the game and when they get running — they run in this building more than they do on the road. They’re really dynamic,’’ Corbin said. "They’re not going to feel sorry for you.''
One thing Corbin wants out of his team is better shot selection. Against the Rockets, the Jazz began the game with an airball by Paul Millsap, two 20-footers by Mo Williams and Randy Foye that clanked off the front rim and a 17-foot miss by Al Jefferson. By then it was 6-0 for Houston, which never trailed.
“We got late in the shot clock and that’s one of the things when your offense is cautious, you slow yourself down instead of getting right to the play and then you’re going against the clock,’’ Corbin said. “Three of the first four possessions of the game we were in a red situation, which means there’s five seconds or less before we ready to take a shot. We’ve got to get the ball down there (to our big men).''
After Friday’s game, the Jazz head north to complete their Texas road swing with a game at Dallas Sunday evening.
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