Former Austin Toros coach Quinn Snyder took it to his old team and thereby extending the San Antonio losing streak to three games. This loss, coming on a night where both Houston and Memphis won, distancing themselves from the Spurs, was as unfortunate as it was unacceptable.
Entering the evening, the Spurs were stuck in seventh position in the Western Conference, 10 games back from Golden State, but only three games back from third place (Houston). Within striking distance from an above-the-fold Playoff seed, San Antonio could have taken a small step forward. Instead, they moonwalked back a half-game in the West.
The Spurs have reveled in their old-man game. The decisive nature of their play and steady grinding style simply overwhelms other teams. Last night, the young Jazz were athletic, poised, and beat San Antonio at their own game: They simply outlasted the Spurs.
Behind Trey Burke, the Jazz destroyed San Antonio in the fast break- a symptom of a poor job of ball control by the Spurs’ backcourt. The Spurs committed a season high 22 turnovers, and Utah capitalized with 17 points.
Without Enes Kanter for the Jazz, San Antonio should have dominated in the paint- slowing down the game. The half court offensive sets from San Antonio has been a mainstay of their championship runs. Think the Parker/Duncan pick and roll. 7’1” Rudy Gobert may of had his statement game with 14 rebounds to go with seven points and three blocks. The flip side of that performance is the Spurs’ front court. Tiago Splitter must be seriously unhealthy. In his seven minutes he contributed a block and two points. I hate to say it, but the Spurs may only go as far as Splitter’s health allows. In the Playoffs they are going to need that size. Aaron Baynes also contributed nothing. Not even hard fouls. Baynes needs to adopt the role of enforcer. We know Duncan doesn’t play that role. Baynes could have roughed up the upstart Gobert a bit and wore him down on both ends of the court. He had 25 minutes to figure out how to play the part, and he left without breaking a sweat.
Three Spurs scored in double figures. Only one is a repeat offender: Duncan. Both Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were outpaced by Boris Diaw and Corey Joseph.
The inconsistent play is frustrating, and I’m sure there is no one more exasperated by this than coach Gregg Popovich.
The loss to Utah makes every game in this upcoming stretch crucial. Wednesday they can make up some ground in the West against the Portland Trailblazers. Then three must wins against Sacramento (twice) and the remodeled Phoenix Suns.
San Antonio just missed a huge opportunity, which doesn’t often occur. They had their run against the West, and were inconsistent to the point of lame. The window to put together a streak against the upper echelon of the Conference is closing. They have to survive March. The next time they will have meaningful conference games is the end of the month with a Dallas/Oklahoma City back-to-back, then Dallas again and Memphis, all in five days. Then a package deal against Houston on April 8 and April 10. Those games will decide the Spurs’ playoff fate. Usually we are talking about seeding. Now, we are discussing participation.