A day after a fantastic effort versus the Philadelphia 76ers, the San Antonio Spurs came up short on the road against the Utah Jazz. The Spurs got down early … and that was a wrap. The good guys never truly made it a competitive affair after the first quarter. San Antonio has now lost four straight games to drop to 31-33 on the season.
The Jazz played with an impressive amount of cohesion on both ends despite being without Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. The win elevated Utah to 47-16, which is good enough for the top spot in the Western Conference.
The closest the Spurs got was 12 points in the fourth quarter after Dejounte Murray hit a layup with four minutes remaining. At that point, the Jazz upped their defensive intensity and San Antonio didn’t score again until garbage time kicked in about three minutes later.
The Jazz lead the league in three-pointers attempted per game (43.4) and are third in the league in three-point percentage (39.1%). Tonight, the Spurs were 5-for-18 on three-pointers. That dog won’t hunt.
Spurs at Jazz: Final Grades
Murray had a really sloppy start with four turnovers in the first half. Thankfully, his game got cleaner as the evening progressed. Scoring-wise he was solid but passing-wise his sharpness lagged behind. Murray’s defensive intensity was a bit lacking, too.
I thought DeRozan failed to set the tone early and his aggression didn’t kick in until after the game was essentially over. He needed to be more demonstrative and make quicker decisions on offense. Defensively, DeRozan was extra bad. He gave sufficient effort in about five possessions in which he participated in. The rest of the time, he was loafing.
Johnson didn’t appear to have much gas. His explosion and physicality were more pedestrian than usual. He made matters even murkier by passing up open shots, specifically three-pointers. That said, I liked his defense for the most part.
Vassell was herky-jerky but this was one of his better showings as a starter. When he plays with confidence, he’s silky smooth. When he’s second-guessing, things get unsightly rather quickly. Defensively, Vassell was mostly solid. I especially liked his work on the boards.
The good: Poeltl made a few difficult one-handed push shots. His passing was good and his effort on defense was commendable. The bad: Poeltl’s night was derailed by early foul trouble. While he tried hard on defense, his actual impact was minimal.
Gay was one of the few players on the Spurs who acted like he actually wanted to shoot three-pointers. Non-Gay three-point shooters were 2-for-12 — ouch. All in all, I didn’t see too many holes in his game tonight. Gay was adequately aggressive, made things happen and competed with vigor. Defensively, he rebounded, he banged bodies and his hands were active.
Lonnie Walker IV
Following three strong games, Walker took a step backwards during this outing. Sure, he didn’t get a gaggle of touches but he rarely took advantage of the ones he did get. He also wasn’t as energetic in transition and instead opted to walk it up. Defensively, Walker didn’t put up much of a fight.
Mills’ post-All-Star break hibernation continues. Strange decisions on offense, getting run over on defense and an all-around lack of the electricity that had been a staple in his career.
It was another strong agame from Dieng. Defensively, he moved his feet well, used his length to make plays and was sturdy in the lane. Offensively, he spread the court, authored smart passes, flashed impressive coordination off the dribble and rolled to the rim with purpose.
Eubanks was too jittery. He wasn’t exactly sure of what he wanted to do — and that created a lot of havoc on both ends. For example, part of him wanted to space the floor on offense — but another part of him wasn’t convinced that shooting an open jumper is something he should be doing.
Samanic got a couple minutes in the first half. On one possession, he passed up an open shot. On another possession, he forced a questionable shot. That was enough for Samanic to get an early hook.
It’s difficult to put too much blame on Pop. His guys lacked both energy and three-point shooting, which is a tough twosome of woes to overcome in 2021. I like that Pop is coaching Vassell hard and also giving him an opportunity to learn on the job. I liked giving Samanic an early look. I didn’t like yanking him so fast. Drawing up playing for Johnson or Walker could have helped them get going.
The Spurs play the Jazz again on Wednesday. That’ll be another difficult one.