In a possible playoff preview, the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz went down to the wire in a thrilling finish in Salt Lake City.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker combined to score the Spurs’ first 10 points of the game. Aldridge was on fire early, reaching double digit points through the first quarter.
Both teams shot the ball at or above 50% during a tight opening quarter. Early on the Spurs looked like they were executing their offense more fluidly, however, committing less turnovers and dishing more assists than the Jazz.
The two teams lived up to their grinding reputations, as the 3 point shot wasn’t relied upon to begin the game. They shot a combined 1-8 from long distance in the 1st quarter, opting instead to collect a good chunk of their points in the paint. 3 pointers would play more of a role as the game went on.
The Spurs ended the quarter on a 13-2 run, with David West giving the Spurs a final surge of momentum as the quarter ended, hitting the quarter’s only 3 pointer right before time expired.
Utah continued their cold streak into the 2nd quarter, failing to put points on the board until Trey Lyles’ jumper with 8:21 remaining in the quarter. The Jazz were able to climb back into the game with an 11-2 run of their own that spanned the middle of the 2nd quarter. Before the half ended, Kawhi Leonard made one of two free throws to send the teams to the locker room with a score of 42-37.
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A low-scoring game was to be expected, as the Spurs and Jazz rank as the two stingiest teams in points allowed.
They also rank among the lowest in fast-break points. No fast-break points were recorded by either team in the first half.
Midway through the 3rd quarter, neither team was shooting the ball well. Gritty defense had plummeted both teams’ field goal percentage as the game wore on. The Jazz were slowing chipping away at the Spurs’ lead, however, mainly through solid free throw shooting. Their first field goal of the 3rd quarter came on a Gordon Hayward mid-range shot at 6:43 remaining in the 3rd. It was an even longer drought than how their 2nd quarter began. Yet the game remained close, until the Spurs went on a 17-4 run to end the quarter at 67-53.
In a game of gigantic momentum swings, the Jazz refused to quit, opening the 4th quarter on a nifty 11-2 run of their own. Joe Ingles ignited the counter attack by hitting three 3 pointers in a 3 minute span. The Jazz had been scoreless from deep up until that point.
With less than 3 minutes to go in the 4th, the game was within 2 points, as the Jazz offense had come to life in the 4th, resuscitated by Ingles.
The Jazz tied the game at 80 with a Rodney Hood dunk, but the Spurs re-took the lead less than a minute later with a Kyle Anderson 3 pointer.
Hood asserted himself further, and hit two key shots as the quarter wound down. In the final minute, Parker rose to the occasion, and hit a 3 of his own to put the Spurs up 86-84.
Haywood tied it up just 10 seconds later. With 6 seconds remaining, Rudy Gobert dramatically blocked Parker’s layup attempt to keep the game tied. With the Spurs inbounding, Leonard showed why he’s worthy of being in the MVP discussion, burying a jumper that would prove to be the game winner.
Along with being the hero, Leonard finished with a team-leading 18 points. Hood lead the Jazz with 23 points.
The Spurs improved to 65-12, and will next play on April 7 at Golden State. The Jazz fall to 39-39 and will host the Los Angeles Clippers on April 8.