The Utah Jazz knew it was not going to be easy to win two in a row to the San Antonio Spurs, and that proved to be true. While the Jazz had to play the Dallas Mavericks in between their last match-up, the Spurs had two days off to rest and make adjustments. Tony Parker did not play so the Spurs started Patty Mills, and also started Kyle Anderson in place of Jonathan Simmons in hopes to replace Parker’s play making.
Quin Snyder stated this morning at shoot around that they were going to have to solid defense to win. “The biggest thing for us, in addition to shooting the ball, we’ve got to be solid defensively. If we’re not, they’ll make you pay every time.” The Jazz started this game off right defensively by forcing the Spurs to take long, mid-range jump shots. The Jazz got out to a quick lead but then quickly got into foul trouble with six fouls in the first eight minutes, include two each to Rodney Hood and George Hill. The offense sputtered for the Jazz without Hood and Hill to help create and the Spurs began to crack open the game. At Halftime the Jazz we facing a 53-41 deficit.
The Jazz began to battle back behind Hood, who showed flashes of being an offensive force tonight. Unfortunately Hood battled foul trouble in the second half as well, and no one else could seem to find a way to get it going. In the end the Spurs put the ball in the hands of Kawhi Leonard, who acted as their primary ball handler, and he led them to a revenge. He showed that he is every bit a MVP candidate as anyone in the league tonight.
18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2-4 3PT, 7-12 FG, 4 fouls, 24 minutes
This game felt like it could have been very different if Hood didn’t get in foul trouble early. Hood was the only player that consistently found ways to beat the Spurs rotations tonight and was scoring with ease. It was a promising demonstration, especially considering that at times Hood was beating Leonard, the best defensive player in the league, for these buckets.
Three Major Takeaways
1) The Bench Need To Step Up.
Someone from the bench has got to step up and help the starters. Ultimately the vision is for that to be Joe Johnson, but until Gordon Hayward is back and Johnson can slide to the bench someone needs to make plays off the bench. Snyder was very vocal at shoot around about the importance of the bench stepping it up and playing with energy. “George Hill said it after the game in San Antonio. He talked about the energy and enthusiasm that our bench brought and it really to me translates to defense. Then you see guys taking shots in the flow of the game because they’re not thinking about their game. They’ve got to have a collective identity. It’s got to be about our game and that’s a different type of rhythm that I think can transcend individual thoughts”
2) Gordon Hayward Cannot Get Back Soon Enough.
This will be a completely different team once Hayward is back. Hayward is the most versatile offensive player on this roster, and we saw today how much this team can use that. The biggest thing this team lacks is play making. Outside of Hood and Hill there is very little in the way of shot creation, and that is Hayward’s specialty. Johnson will also be able to slide to the bench and give the bench some much needed fire power.
3) The Spurs are still really good.
They may have turned over half their roster and lost a half of fame center, but this is a team that is the favorite to make it to the Western Conference championship. Don’t get down on the Jazz because of this loss, they lost to a really good team.
Play Of The Game
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) November 5, 2016
Playoff Seed Impact
Vegas had the Spurs favored by four points, but FiveThiryEight had the picked the Jazz by 3.5. Before the game FiveThirtyEight had the Spurs projected to be the second seed in the west with 56 wins and Utah the third with 53. After the loss the Jazz dropped the 51 wins and the fifth seed in the projections and the Spurs climbed all the way up to 58 wins.
While the Jazz might not realistically be in contention with the Spurs for the second seed, a loss against a Western Conference playoff team is still more brutal than ever.