This is a pretty weird feeling.
I’m talking about the loss tonight and not the indescribable feeling that I felt after watching yet another Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter commercial.
After winning 11 consecutive games by an average of 13.2 points the Spurs, anticlimactically, lost to the Utah Jazz, 84-91.
Without Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, the Spurs relied heavily on a starting lineup consisting of Patrick Mills, Danny Green, Stephen Jackson and an interesting frontline — and one that weighs an aggregate 505 lbs — of Boris Diaw and DeJuan Blair.
Against an average frontcourt, much less a physically dominating one like the Jazz, the Spurs were destined to struggle down low. And that they did. Utah outrebounded San Antonio by 12, snapping the Spurs unlikely streak of six games with more offensive rebounds. Interestingly, the Spurs did hold a six point advantage in points in the paint.
But that probably isn’t because the Spurs were necessarily more proficient at scoring at the rim. A more plausible reason would be the Jazz 33 free throw attempts, compared to the Spurs’ 10, and the fact that the Jazz can’t technically score points inside the paint when they are at the line. San Antonio was whistled on 22 personal fouls — Diaw was whistled on four, alone — including a couple of egregious calls on Devin Harris that, frankly, were ridiculous. Utah recorded 14 fouls.
Aside from a few tough pull up 3-pointers that fell in the fourth quarter, Harris, who benefited significantly from the referees loose whistles, scored 25 points on 7-of-17 shooting. Harris’ 12 free throw attempts were more than the entire Spurs team combined.
Even so, the Spurs held an eight point lead with 8:49 left. After Stephen Jackson — he finished with five points on 2-of-13 shooting — promptly missed a couple of jumpshots and a Mills turnover, the Jazz were able to, once again, get to the line and convert their free throws.
The Spurs 16 assists was their second straight straight game with less than 20 assists, which is a quick and easy way, albeit flawed, to gauge the efficiency of our offense. Understandably, the execution wasn’t up to our standards without our two best shot creators.
As the game closed, the Spurs were able to muster up a couple of decent attempts, some of which came out on the Spurs patented offensive sets. The Spurs shooters, however, went 0-for-4 from behind the arc in the final 3:26 of the game.
The Jazz, behind Harris’ 12 fourth quarter points and their 10-of-12 shooting from the line, were able to chip away at the Spurs lead. Although they weren’t quite efficient themselves — their field goal percentage was 42.5 percent — the sheer volume of attempts at the line were enough to beat the depleted Spurs. Utah finished the game on a 24-9 run.
With the loss, the Spurs are now one game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder with 11 games remaining. The Jazz’ timely win keeps them 1.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets.
San Antonio will prepare themselves for the first game of a rigorous back-to-back against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Kawhi Leonard came off the bench, scoring seven points on 3-of-8 shooting in 25:44 … Leonard, presumably, didn’t get the start because he isn’t a great shot creator … Boris Diaw scored five points on 2-of-4 shooting but he didn’t record an assist … it was Diaw’s first game this year without an assist … Stephen Jackson did record three steals, seemingly his only positive contribution on the night … San Antonio shot 44.4 percent on 2-pointers … Utah made 45.8 percent of their 2-pointers … If you factor in their free throws (and the excellent true shooting percentage metric does) then Utah made 52 percent of their shots … DeMarre Carroll had the game of his last night but that didn’t translate today; Carroll only played 11:02 minutes, missing his only three shots and grabbing three rebounds in the process … Gordon Hayward had a game-high plus-17 … Hayward was rather efficient; he made 5-of-10 of his shots, including 5-of-6 from the line … Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap both posted double-doubles … The lead changed 11 times and was tied 13 times … The Jazz blocked 13 shots, their second highest total of the year … In 17:37, Jeremy Evans blocked three shots … The Spurs should run their offense through Tiago Splitter more often because they seem to get decent looks because of the attention a defense must pay towards Tiago …