In recent years, the Utah Jazz/San Antonio Spurs matchups have often followed a similar storyline: San Antonio darts out early, pours it on in the middle and the Jazz make a solid run in the fourth to make the loss respectable. While Wednesday proved to be another Spurs victory (109-105), the Jazz showed that this familiar storyline could change in the near future.
While it took a little longer to build up the lead, San Antonio did possess an 18-point lead at one point. But Utah managed to keep things within striking distance for much of the evening, and behind a furious fourth-quarter 21-7 push, got within two points with four second remaining. Marco Belinelli sealed the game with two free throws, but the young Jazz squad showed it could make these battles much more competitive going forward.
Savvy vets: As has been the case for nearly two decades, the Spurs are championship contenders once again, thanks to the play of their legendary veterans. The future Hall of Fame trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili showed they still have a lot left in the tank.
Parker showed his elite abilities as he orchestrated San Antonio’s stellar offense. The All-Star sliced and diced his way to a 9 of 16 shooting night, along with 7 of 8 free throws. Parker finished with 25 points and nine assists while sporting a +11 +/- mark. Duncan only played 24 minutes but put 15 points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots and four assists on the stat sheet. And while his contributions were more pedestrian, Ginobili did enough to contribute to the Spurs' win with 13 points and three assists.
Promising youths: Each game, Jazz fans are getting a glimpse into the future of the team. And it is promising. The youthful, talented players each showed what they can do.
The frontcourt pair of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter was difficult for the Spurs' frontcourt to contain. Favors set the tone early, and Kanter’s strong second half kept Utah close. They combined to shoot 20 of 31 from the field while totaling 44 points and 23 rebounds. Kanter’s 25 points constituted a career-high.
Trey Burke struggled with his shot for much of the game but was fearless in the fourth quarter as he tallied Utah’s final 10 points. He had 17 points and 11 assists, the second double-double of his career. Alec Burks continued his strong play with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists before fouling out late.
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• Marvin Williams went scoreless and has only scored 10 points total spanning the past three outings.
• Young up-and-comer Kawhi Leonard did it all for San Antonio: 15 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a pair of blocked shots.
• Utah’s Richard Jefferson had 15 points and five assists against his former team.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.