The (Almost) RJ Revenge Game
San Antonio 91, Utah 82
One good quarter cures all ills.
Utah has always been a brutal place to play, and for 3 quarters the Spurs showed no signs of fighting for a win against the worst team in the league. Finishing off a stretch of 6 games in 9 nights and staring down 4 days off, the Spurs had every reason to fall into the dreaded ‘trap’ game. And while the Jazz are just shadows of their former years, they’re still big, they still bang, and they still dominate us on the boards. In the first half, they were simply the more energetic team, using offensive board after offensive board to rack up 12 second chance points (to none for the Spurs) and have control of the game.
But with such a huge talent differential, Utah just couldn’t put the Spurs away. So the Spurs lurked, going through the motions, staying in touch, and finding a spark wherever they could (hello, Boris, we see you). Trailing by just 7 entering the 4th, despite all physical evidence, it felt like the Spurs had the game won.
With 4 3-point plays in a row in the first 3 minutes of the quarter, the Spurs seized control of the game and never let go. This is what veteran teams do to young teams, and Friday night was completely ordinary in that regard. When the Spurs struggle on offense, it can often be traced back to Tony Parker, the engine of the system, and the piece around which the offense was designed. For 3 quarters he stumbled his way through the game, and the Spurs 60 points illuminated this. But the 4th quarter is for closers, and while he’ll get no press saying this, Parker might be the best closer in the NBA right now. 14 points (and an array of breathtaking drives and circus shots) later, the game had nearly turned into a blow out, as the Spurs posted a 41-15 quarter to win easily going away.
The 4th quarter is also for defensive closers. While we focus on Duncan’s offensive struggles (quite apparent), let’s not overlook how well he locked down the paint and ‘ran’ the defense in the 4th quarter to allow only 15 points, stop the second chance points, and basically force Utah into a non-existent offense (clanged jumper after clanged jumper). If not for some late points after the game was decided, the Jazz might not have cracked double digits in the 4th.
As long as Parker is running the offense, the Spurs will be fine on that end in spite of Duncan (who should find it eventually). And don’t worry about Duncan until his defensive contributions start slipping. (Hint: that seems a long way off.)
The Spurs get 4 days off before Boston comes to town Wednesday night.
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