The San Antonio Spurs (64-12) begin a three-game road trip Tuesday as they make their way into Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Jazz (39-38).
Before Thursday’s matchup at Golden State, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is likely to rest the meat of his lineup when his team visits the Jazz. Look for Popovich to give heavy minutes to the second-unit in the teams next two games. There’s no reason for Popovich to give heavy minutes to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili against the Jazz or Nuggets.
Utah on the other hand, is battling Dallas and Houston for the West’s final two postseason berths. The Jazz are tied with the Mavericks and a game ahead of Houston– the Texas rivals are set for a crucial matchup in Dallas on Wednesday night.
If Utah can finish above both and claim seventh place, a matchup awaits against the Spurs. The Spurs had no issues with the Jazz in the first-round in 2011-2012 as they swept Utah.
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Defense has been the calling card for the Jazz this season. It was put on full display Sunday against the Phoenix Suns. Utah forced 21 turnovers that led to 26 points. Gordon Hayward whom is the best player on the Jazz led five players in double-figures with 22 in the 101-86 win.
Utah is second to San Antonio (92.6) at 95.9 points allowed per game, but it’s been even better at 88.9 during its 10-3 surge into contention. The only teams to top 100 in those 13 games are Oklahoma City (113) and Golden State, which needed overtime for 103.
The Jazz may be playing outstanding defense, but that hasn’t been the case against San Antonio this season. Utah has lost all three matches against San Antonio this season. San Antonio has averaged 112.3 points while holding Utah to 85.7, a differential of 26.6 that is the Spurs’ largest against a West opponent this season.
In their last meeting February 25th, the Spurs fully displayed their defensive dominance in the league. They held Utah to 78 points on 42.9-percent shooting from the floor. Utah shot just 3-of-17 from beyond the arc while San Antonio hit 50-percent, 9-of-18.
Leonard led with a game-high 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting for San Antonio. Derrick Favors was a handful on the block finishing with 24 on 12-of-17 for Utah. Hayward was held to 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. In the three games against San Antonio, he is averaging 11 points per game on 32.4 percent shooting.
Since the start of the 2010-11 season, Utah has lost 16 of 20 against San Antonio with all the victories coming in Salt Lake City.
San Antonio is 25-12 on the road this season.