They shot 29 percent from the field in the first half. They made only 11 of 27 layups for the night. Andrei Kirilenko was 2-for-11 for the game. Mehmet Okur was 3-for-12. Gordan Giricek was 1-for-10.

So how was it that the Utah Jazz were in striking distance, or even ahead, of the defending NBA-champion San Antonio Spurs?

Well, how about this: Jarron Collins was matching Tim Duncan, or even ahead of him, in points and rebounds for most of the first half.

Duncan eventually totaled 19 points to lead both teams, but Collins had 15 and 10 rebounds, two more than the MVP man, as the Spurs pulled away at the end Monday night in the Delta Center, winning 79-70.

"We played pretty good 'D,' so I guess our defense got us through this," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, whose team is starting an eight-game "road-eo" trip — the rodeo takes over the SBC Center this time every year and sends the Spurs to hotels all over the country for some 16 days.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan wasn't so sure all those missed layups were all the Spurs' doing, having seen his club miss layups before, though he implored them in training camp to learn to shoot layups since that's one thing the Jazz offense tries to set up. "I know they're a great defensive team, but it looked like to me they were pretty wide open," Sloan said of the misses.

Okur didn't have a lot of luck against Duncan, but Collins played his game, said Sloan.

"There's things to be done out there, and Jarron is one of those that tries every single night he's out there. He may not have all the talent in the world. But sometimes guys that have talent don't analyze their basketball IQ.

"Jarron analyzes his and knows what he's got. He's knows he can't do a lot of things, but he can hustle. He always tries to give us that."

Collins worked with point guard Keith McLeod on draw-and-kick plays for a couple of baskets and put in a pass from Kirilenko to help Utah build a 12-9 lead, scoring seven of those points to Duncan's five. His assist to Kirilenko with 1:40 left in the first quarter for a rare Jazz layin basket put Utah ahead 22-14.

He made his fourth straight basket at 11:08 of the second period rebounding a Devin Brown miss for a 24-20 lead.

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Collins was his usual diplomatic self about it all and the way the Jazz shot so poorly. "They have good (defensive) strategy as far as funneling all the action in to Tim and Rasho (Nesterovic) and Nazr (Mohammed).

"They've got a great presence, they have long arms, they're very active with their hands. Manu (Ginobili) is very active with his hands. They just put a lot of pressure on teams, ball pressure trying to force turnovers, and then if they do get penetration, they try to funnel. it down to the big guys, who are very long and very active."

And he was mad at himself for missing a layup.

But it was a night of missed layups. And missed opportunity.