The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Utah Jazz @ San Antonio Spurs 1/18/2015

January 18th, 2015 | by David J Smith
San Antonio's defense had Utah off balance all night, and not just on his Derrick Favors shot. (Darren Abate — AP Photo)

San Antonio’s defense had Utah off balance all night, and not just on his Derrick Favors shot. (Darren Abate — AP Photo)

1. The San Antonio Spurs will be perpetually good. 

Midway through the game, I half-jokingly, half-seriously tweeted the following:

Well, perhaps it was more like 30 percent jesting and 70 percent truthful. The Spurs did not have their best game. They were just 31 of 80 from the floor (38.8 percent) and were actually just 23 of 63 on 2-point attempts (36.5 percent). They also did not score more than 23 points in any of the quarters.

But they did so many Spursian things. They were balanced, with five players reaching double-digits, but no one exceeding 14 points. They were red-hot from downtown, connecting on 8 of 17 3-pointers. Despite big nights on the boards from Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, San Antonio narrowly won the battle of the boards, 49-481. And would it feel right if San Antonio did not exude excellent ball movement? It had 23 assists compared to just 10 turnovers. Their execution also earned them 23 trips to the free throw line, where they were +9 over Utah.

Most importantly, San Antonio was dominant defensively. Any time you prevent a team from making more than one of three shots, you are succeeding2. A majority of the Spurs roster are above average on that end of the court, but head coach Greg Popovich’s overall team schemes on defense are text-book good. Their perimeter players play good position defense and manage to funnel a lot of plays right toward their bigs. It proves difficult, especially for an Utah team that is lacking some consistent 3-point marksmanship.

While their 26-16 record currently has them as the seventh seed in the uber-competitive Western Conference, it feels like the Spurs are headed for yet another traditional second half win streak. With Kawhi Leonard making another leap, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili still going strong and a deep cast of stellar role players, San Antonio will be strong come April. And perhaps could be strong for the next 17 seasons or so.

2. Will the halftime rotation switch lead to a change? 

With Enes Kanter struggling in the first half and Rudy Gobert inhaling rebounds, Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder opted to make a change in the second half. The second-year Frenchman got the nod, and his strong third quarter contributed to his career-high 18 rebound-night. Gobert added 13 points, four rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes. He was active and had a few stops that had the AT&T Center crowd oohing and aahing a bit.

Kanter struggled, going 2 of 6 for four points and two rebounds in 21 minutes, including the final six minutes after San Antonio had built up a 26-point lead. It was a tough night for him, perhaps he is still feeling the after effects of his recent injury. It should be noted that Gobert was -15 on plus/minus, while Kanter was -10 (included is the 11-3 finish to the game for Utah).

Could this slight change signal a change in the starting lineup? It will certainly be something to watch. I, for one, think the trio of Kanter, Gobert and Favors can not only co-exist, but can thrive. But that’s a post for another day.

3. Rodney Hood cannot catch a break on the injury front. 

Not long into the fourth quarter, rookie swingman Rodney Hood came down on an opponent’s foot awkwardly and was forced out of the game, having to be assisted by his teammates. Fortunately, his X-rays were negative, but he will be flying back to Salt Lake City for further evaluation. For a player who just came back from his second foot injury of the season, this is definitely a blow.

Hood has shown some flashes. While he has struggled with his shot most of the season, he has shown the ability to contribute on the boards and has a nice handle. He is underrated as a facilitator and has shown that he’s a willing defender. All these injuries have stunted things a bit, which is a shame. It is evident that Snyder thinks highly on him and that Hood factored heavily into his plans this season.

In the silver lining department, this probably helps Elijah Millsap’s chances of securing a contract for the rest of the season. Chances are, he was already heading that direction. The injury concerns can only solidify things in his favor.

David J Smith

David J Smith

Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News and has written for the Utah Jazz website and (now Basketball Insiders). He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. He and his incredibly patient wife, Elizabeth, have some amazing children--four girls and two boys. Voted "Most Likely to Replace Jerry Sloan" in high school.
David J Smith

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