Danny Chan La, Deseret Morning News
Spurs Manu Ginobili drives to the hoop and gets hammered by Jazz Carlos Boozer (right) and Andrei Kirilenko in the fourth quarter. Since opening the season 17-3, San Antonio is 11-12 in its last 23 games.

It was hardly the way the San Antonio Spurs wanted to start their annual "rodeo trip" on Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

The Spurs have been kicked out of their home arena — to make way for the annual San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo — about this same time every year since the 2002-03 season.

This season they will play nine straight road games, not returning to San Antonio for a game until after the All-Star break.

Normally the rodeo trip has been good for the Spurs, as they entered Monday's game with a 29-10 mark during those games over the past five years.

But the Jazz's 97-91 win got this year's journey off on a sour note.

"It's horrible way to start (the road trip)," said guard Manu Ginobili, who led the Spurs with 29 points off the bench. "We knew this is not an easy arena to get a win, but we, of course, were optimistic.

"To get a loss like this, it hurts. It puts even more pressure on the next game against Seattle and the following game at Phoenix and all the rest."

Spurs coach Greg Popovich wasn't as upset afterward, however. He said it was a good way to start the trip, in fact.

"I think we got a lot out of it," Popovich said. "Sometimes wins are awful and losses are pretty good. It's not about (winning and losing) as much as it is trying to make sure that whatever you are doing is making you better."

The fact of the matter is that the defending NBA champions need to get better. The Spurs fell to 28-15 with the loss and now have just one more win than the Jazz. Since opening the season 17-3, San Antonio is 11-12 in its last 23 games.

"We are in a tough situation," Ginobili said. "But in every season in the past, we have gone through some adversity, sooner or later, so hopefully that will make us better for when it counts."

All-Star forward Tim Duncan scored 26 points with 11 boards for the Spurs, but he also committed seven of San Antonio's 19 turnovers.

"We just kept digging ourselves holes then we'd fight back into it," Duncan said. "But we just couldn't fight our way over the hump."

While Ginobili and Duncan did their part offensively with a combined 55 points, point guard Tony Parker, the other member of the Spurs' "Big Three," struggled. Parker was just 1-for-7 from the field and had four fouls and four turnovers with just three assists.

But while the defending champs have been a sub-.500 team their past 23 games, their coach is not ready to panic.

"We don't lack for aggressiveness or lack for fight," Popovich said. "We are going to try to be in every game or at least most of the 82. We'll get our butts kicked now and then, but it was a good game."

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