SALT LAKE CITY — Paul Millsap picked an interesting word to describe how the Utah Jazz hope to make the San Antonio Spurs feel in tonight's late ESPN game.
"We've got to make it uncomfortable for them on the defensive end," Millsap said.
Uncomfortable is precisely how the Jazz have looked and played against the Spurs for most of the past decade or so, and especially recently. Utah has lost 11 of 12 games to San Antonio, including a 110-100 setback in the Alamo City on Nov. 3.
To the Jazz's credit, they did fight back from a 19-point halftime deficit to tie the game before the Spurs seized control down the stretch.
In that third quarter, Utah made San Antonio uncomfortable by ratcheting up its defensive pressure while attacking on the offensive end. Utah could be without its biggest defensive presence, though, as Derrick Favors (strained arch) is a game-time decision.
"If they sit back and take those rhythm shots that they're used to getting, then it's going to be a long night for us," Millsap said. But if we get them off of it and try not to make it so easy so they can penetrate, it will make it a lot better for us."
The Spurs bring an NBA-best record of 18-4 into ESA, where surging Utah has won eight of nine games. The Jazz are on a three-game winning streak since falling at home to the Clippers last Monday, 105-104.
The game is an 8:30 p.m. tip because of its national broadcast.
"I think there's a little bit more (emotion) just because we're playing the Spurs," Millsap said. "Top team in the Western Conference right now. With it being on TV, it don't hurt."
Utah was swept out of the first round by the Spurs in four games last spring. The Jazz's only recent victory came against a shorthanded San Antonio squad leading up to the postseason last year. Utah won a tight one, 91-84, in the absence of the Spurs' Big Three — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — who were sent home to rest.
A similar action earlier this season led to a $250,000 fine by the NBA after San Antonio sent Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Danny Green home instead of having them play in a TNT game at Miami.
Tonight, the Spurs are expected to play all of their key players, including the triple-headed threat of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.
Jazz center Al Jefferson has nothing but respect for Duncan, who's won four NBA titles in his 16 seasons.
"Tim Duncan is Tim Duncan. He's a vet, a professional," Jefferson said of the 36-year-old, who's averaging 17.7 points and 9.9 rebounds. "He's been doing it for many years, knows how to do it. You've got to be ready for anything. I don't see him getting older. I just see him getting smarter and better."
Favors hopes to see action after missing the past five games with plantar fasciitis.
"We'll see. I'll just go out there in pregame, warm up, see how my foot feels and if it feels good, I'll go," Favors said after today's shootaround session. "It feels pretty good now. It's one of those injuries that can linger on, so it might get sore later on. I don't know. We'll just see."
Favors went through a workout Monday when the team had the day off. He then participated in practice and shootaround.
"It's frustrating, but at the same time I have to listen to my body," he said. "It's a long season. I don't want to go out there and play in one game and mess it up worse."
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