Spurs (4-1) vs. Utah Jazz (3-2)
Tipoff: 8 p.m., Salt Lake City
Spurs’ last game: Lost 106-91, AT&T Center, Tuesday
Jazz’s last game: Won 97-81, at Dallas, Wednesday
Notable: Spurs will play without Tony Parker (sore right knee)
SAN ANTONIO – Torched by Utah’s 3-point shooting in a 15-point home loss Tuesday night, the Spurs paid the price for letting the Jazz get in their groove early in the game.
Utah went 7 of 8 from 3-point range and was 13 of 18 overall in racing to a 38-28 lead after one quarter. The Silver and Black played better defense in the middle periods, but the damage was done by then. The Jazz hit big shots when they had to, and outscored San Antonio 33-20 in the final quarter, nailing 12 of 18 shots from the field, 5 of 6 from beyond the arc.
When it was over, Utah had made 15 of 31 attempts from the three-point line and shot 50 percent (38/76) overall.
“We just let them get too comfortable early,” Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. “We were a little bit passive on defense and they kind of got comfortable out there. Once they got comfortable, they made tough shots. I thought our guys competed and turned it up in the second half, but they were already comfortable.”
The Silver and Black get back at it Friday night against the Jazz, who handed them their first loss of the season after a 4-0 start. A win Tuesday night would have given the Spurs their first 5-0 start in franchise history.
Friday night’s game will be the first of a back-to-back for the Silver and Black, who host the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night. Spurs point guard Tony Parker will miss the game against the Jazz with soreness in his right knee. Patty Mills subbed for Parker the last time he was out, scoring 18 points in a 98-79 victory against New Orleans last Saturday in San Antonio.
Kawhi Leonard has led the Spurs’ scoring in all five of their games, averaging 28.4 points. He scored 30 points on 10 of 18 shooting, 5 of 7 from beyond the arc, in the loss to Utah. Aldridge scored 21 points and was the only other San Antonio player in double figures.
Like Aldridge, Leonard blamed the loss on the Spurs’ slow start. Leonard was asked how disappointing the loss was, considering how good the team had looked in its first four games.
“Every loss is disappointing to me,” Leonard said. “It’s just disappointing that our defensive effort, our energy, wasn’t there in that first quarter. They were knocking down shots as well in the fourth quarter. They scored 33 points in the fourth and that’s not good, either.”
Former Spur George Hill came back to haunt his former team, leading the Jazz with 22 points and scoring 10 points down the stretch.
“Every shot that you make in the fourth, if you’re up, helps you,” Leonard said. “He did a great job getting to his shot, getting his teammates involved as well.”
Hill, who played three seasons for the Spurs, also scored 25 points in Utah’s 97-81 victory against Dallas on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said the team shouldn’t lack for motivation Friday night.
“The fact that they just beat us is hopefully going to fuel us,” he said. “It’s going to be an important game for us. We want to change the image that stayed in our head after this game. Hopefully, we are much better, more aggressive from minute one, and we get a win there.”
Next up for Spurs: vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, AT&T Center
Tip-ins: Leonard set a team record by making his first 33 free-throw attempts of the season. He broke the mark set by John Paxson at the start of the 1984-85 season. Leonard has made 43 of 45 free throws (95.6 percent) . . . Jonathon Simmons made his first start of the season against Utah, subbing for guard Danny Green, who is still sidelined with a left quad sprain. Kyle Anderson started the first four games in Green’s place. Simmons made only 1 of 7 shots Tuesday night and finished with two points . . . Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked before Tuesday night’s game if he had read the piece Ray Allen wrote for the Players’ Tribune on his retirement, which he announced earlier that day. “You think I read?” Popovich asked. “I read nothing about sports. It’s boring.” . . . Popovich told reporters he rarely watches film of other teams. “I learned that from Jerry Sloan, referring to the former Jazz coach. “I asked him one time, ‘Coach, how much film do you watch?’ He said, ‘None.’ I said, ‘What do you mean you don’t watch it?’ He said, ‘That’s why my assistants do.’ Quote, unquote. I took that philosophy from that day forward. You’re much better off worrying about what you do because last time I checked, we don’t do everything real well. If I concentrate on trying to get us to do our stuff well, then maybe once in a while somebody might do something different and I’ve got to pay attention to it. When is the last time you saw a new offense or defense or something that was something nobody ever saw before? It doesn’t exist. Work on your own stuff.”
(© 2016 KENS)