UTAH JAZZ

Spurs Stun Jazz With Brilliant Mid-Range Shooting

Dec 17, 2021, 10:08 PM | Updated: 10:34 pm
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell hangs his head (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell hangs his head (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz saw their eight-game win streak come to a surprising end when the 11-17 San Antonio Spurs stole a 128-126 victory in Salt Lake City.

Despite leading by 14 at the half, the Jazz were outscored 41-23 in the third quarter and weren’t able to fully overtake the Spurs in the fourth quarter.

Donovan Mitchell scored 27 points to lead all scorers while fighting nausea after getting hit in the first quarter but missed two shots in the final minute that could have given the Jazz late leads in the loss.

DeJounte Murray recorded a 16 point, 11 rebound, 11 assist triple-double in the Spurs win.

Spurs Catch Fire Inside The Arc

The Spurs knocked down an impressive 10 first half threes, then used the spread-out Jazz defense to attack the paint and mid-range and had incredible success in the third and fourth quarters.

After shooting 0-10 on non-restricted field goal attempts inside the three-point line in the second quarter, the Spurs caught fire in the second half.

San Antonio shot an absurd 18-23 on non-restricted area shots inside the three-point line and 6-7 on attempts at the rim.

That’s a combined 80 percent inside of 19 feet over the second and third quarters, one of the most impressive shooting feats by any Jazz opponent this season.

“It’s all about our defense,” Quin Snyder said of the loss. “If you’re going to give up 41 and the third and 23 in the second, that’s just a question of us having more focus and resolve on that end.”

Popovich Lauds Gay On And Off Court

Though he struggled in his first game against his old team managing just four points and four rebounds in 21 minutes, the run of former coaches celebrating Rudy Gay continued against the Spurs.

Two weeks ago, Celtics head coach and former Spurs assistant Ime Udoka had complimentary things to say about Gay and how he willingly adopted his role in San Antonio.

“He’s an all-around scorer,” Udoka said. “Mid-range post-up, transition, and with Utah emphasizing shooting threes and getting to the basket, he’s probably doing less in the mid-range than he was doing in the past, but he’s a capable shooter and  scorer, and a veteran presence and scoring punch they need off the bench to go with Clarkson.”

Last week, Gay discussed how he’s been able to stick around in the NBA for a decade-and-a-half, namely, being willing to reinvent himself with whatever team he’s suiting for.

“I don’t know too many people from my draft are still in the NBA,” Gay said. “Longevity, you’ve got to be able to form to different roles.”

Before facing the Jazz, the Spurs legendary head coach Gregg Popovich shared his thoughts on the 16-year veteran.

“He is talented, he’s been talented the entire time,” Popovich said. “And he’s somebody that can get a shot because he’s so tall, he’s so long.”

But that isn’t the only reason Gay has been able to stick around.

“He has been flexible in the sense that he’ll find where he could help the team the most and he adjusts,” Popovich said. “But the fact that he’s a good guy and a heck of a teammate, it really goes a long way.”

Quin Snyder went to Gay in the fourth quarter against San Antonio in an effort to match a slightly smaller Spurs lineup and it worked on the defensive end.

The Jazz got three consecutive stops despite not having a traditional rim protector but failed to score after Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, and Bojan Bogdanovic each missed isolation opportunities.

The Spurs hit a three to break their scoring drought, ultimately outscoring the Jazz by three during Gay’s minutes, but the reserve veteran did his job, his teammates just didn’t execute well offensively while he was on the floor.

Staying Even Through Ups And Downs

During Danny Ainge’s introductory press conference on Wednesday, he spoke about learning patience between his first few years as an executive in the NBA and where he is now entering his 19th season.

“You learn that bad days, there will come an end to the bad days, and not to be too excited on the good days,” Ainge said of the NBA’s ups and downs. “I think you just need to be even-keel and go about trying to find the real reasons for your success and failures as opposed to big emotional reactions.”

Snyder has seen his fair share of ups and downs during his career, losing nine consecutive games just one month into his first season with the Jazz, to five consecutive trips to the playoffs.

He admitted he still has to fight the emotional reactions Ainge warned against.

“I remember being terrified,” Snyder joked of the team’s struggles early in his career. “Now I’m just nervous.”

Even after his first taste of the playoffs in 2017, Snyder wasn’t able to sit back and watch the team grow.

Just months after knocking off the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, the team underwent a dramatic overhaul with Gordon Hayward leaving for the Boston Celtics, Ricky Rubio joining the team, and Donovan Mitchell establishing himself as one of the main building blocks of the future.

“There’s anxiety associated with that because you probably know you’re not going to get it right right away,” Snyder said of starting over with a new roster.

However, with the Jazz core remaining largely unchanged over the last three seasons, and Snyder having firmly entrenched himself as one of basketball’s best head coaches, he’s grown more comfortable in his role, even if his job as a teacher remains the same.

“Now there are things that you feel like you know that your team can do well, but that that really doesn’t change what you’re trying to do,” Snyder said. “You’re just looking at different, specific, more incremental things to try to find more value.”

The Jazz have had a few low moments emotionally this season, specifically after losing to the New Orleans Pelicans at home in late November, but Ainge’s perspective on how to weather the storms will be a valuable asset.

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Spurs Stun Jazz With Brilliant Mid-Range Shooting