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Jim Urquhart, Associated Press
San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) attempts a shot while defended by Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson, left, forwards Paul Millsap, second from right and C.J. Miles (34) during the first half on a NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 20, 2012, in Salt Lake City.

The team that just will not go away continues to work its magic. Just when you think they are on their last legs, the San Antonio Spurs keep thriving. The hottest squad in the NBA continued their winning ways as the Spurs nipped the Utah Jazz in a thrilling 106-102 win Monday night.

San Antonio featured three players who threw in 20 or more points, led by All-Star Tony Parker’s 23. Tim Duncan and Matt Bonner each added 20. Meanwhile, Utah had five players in double figures.

While San Antonio won their eleventh consecutive game, the slumping Jazz dropped their second straight and has now been on the losing end in nine of the past 12 outings.

Tale of the Quarters: As expected, the closely fought game went back-and-forth throughout. This was evidenced clearly by the different trends in the four quarters. Utah came out with great energy and effort in the opening quarter, leading 30-26 at the end of 12 minutes. Then San Antonio stole momentum in the second stanza, using a barrage of three-pointers to outpace Utah 30-23.

The second half followed the same pattern, with the Jazz coming out with a dominant 13-0 run to start the third quarter. They were spirited on both ends, but that was short-lived, as San Antonio slowly but surely fought back, culminating with a Gary Neal buzzer-beating trey that knotted things up at 80.

And then San Antonio did what they are simply accustomed to dong — they made the plays they needed to in the fourth. They took full advantage of Utah’s being in the penalty with 9:48 left in game, going 12 for 14 from the charity stripe. It was a familiar ending as the Spurs eked things out in the clutch.

Welcome back: In the wake of starting shooting guard Raja Bell’s injury, two Jazz players who have struggled of late were given every opportunity to impact the game, with both being successful in that endeavor. Josh Howard earned the start and after averaging a paltry four points per game the past three weeks, he played a solid floor game while putting forth a tough defensive effort. Howard finished with 12 points and seven caroms.

Back-up swingman C.J. Miles, who expressed some of his frustrations via Twitter last night, was active early on offensively. While he took a few questionable shots on the way, his 13 points were a welcome sight.

Ironically, a Spur who has also had his fair share of struggles connected on the biggest shot of the game. Richard Jefferson, who played a mere 21 minutes, nailed the dagger corner three-pointer to seal it for San Antonio.

Bombs Away: Gregg Popovich’s team did exactly what has helped them garner four championships over the years: playing a lethal inside-out game. While Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair took care of things in the paint, the perimeter Spurs did the most damage, nailing 10-21 three-pointers. All of the treys — with the exception of Richard Jefferson’s clutch shot — came courtesy of the San Antonio reserves. Notorious Jazz killer Matt Bonner drained five of six, while Gary Neal hit three trifectas.

Quick shots:

  • Josh Howard shot free throws for the first time in seven games.
  • Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter combined to play just 22 minutes.

David Smith is providing instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage this season. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.