The Spurs will win if: In the playoffs, San Antonio dominated the frontcourt tandem of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. In the regular season, the Spurs flipped the script and played better against Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Outperforming either tandem will be enough considering the Spurs have an inestimable edge against Utah’s makeshift backcourt.
The Spurs will lose if: Utah’s defense plays well enough to augment their offense. The Jazz’ sixth-ranked offense is in the upper half in each of the “Four Factors” — effective field goal percentage (13), turnover percentage (8), offensive rebound percentage (3) and free throw rate (9) — while their defense is lacking in every category, especially on the defensive glass.
Their inability to protect the defensive boards becomes a real threat when Favors and Kanter, both excellent offensive rebounders, are on the floor. San Antonio isn’t the type of team to attack these likely advantages but the Jazz defense doesn’t accomplish much in other facets to inspire much confidence either.
X-Factor: DeMarre Carroll has played in 124 games in his four-year career — or an average of 31 games per season.
His career hasn’t been much more than a footnote.
In Utah, however, Carroll has developed into a multi-faceted swingman who can rebound, block shots, create steals and finish at the rim.
Averaging 17.9 minutes per game, garnering three starts for his efforts, Carroll is only behind big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in player efficiency rating. Digesting advanced statistics further and Carroll fares in the top five among the Jazz in true shooting percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, steals percentage and blocks percentage. Though his offensive role is minisucle — only Jeremy Evans, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley have lower usage rates — Carroll is estimated to produce 130 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Reference.
On the defensive end, Carroll is a hard nosed defender with enough length to disrupt most opposing small forwards.
As such, Utah is 16.6 points per 100 possessions better while Carroll is on the floor according to NBA.com/Stats. Notably, Utah grabs five more offensive rebounds per 48 minutes with Carroll — or 40 percent of their own misses.
Coincidentally, Carroll put together his best performance of last season against the Spurs. In a 10-point loss on Apr. 8, Carroll scored 16 points in a shade under 18 minutes, along with four rebounds. He only missed two of eight shot attempts.