SPURS GAMEDAY: Silver and Black to cap regular season in Utah

Spurs (61-20) vs. Utah Jazz (50-31)
Tipoff: 8 p.m., Wednesday, Salt Lake City
Season series: Spurs lead 2-1
Last meeting: Spurs 109, Jazz 103, April 2, AT&T Center
Spurs' last game: Lost to Trail Blazers 99-98, Monday, Portland, Ore.
Jazz's last game: Beat Warriors 105-99, Monday, Oakland, Calif.
Spurs' last 10 games: 6-4, lost last two
Jazz's last 10 games: 7-3, won three of last four
Notable: The Spurs have no injuries to report for Wednesday's game, which means rookie point guard Dejounte Murray will be available to play. Murray has missed the team's last 16 games with a groin injury.  

SAN ANTONIO – Only hours before the curtain comes down on their 41st regular season in the NBA, the Spurs have two objectives heading into Wednesday night’s finale against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.

Priority No. 1, as always, is to stay healthy. But just as importantly, the Silver and Black are focused on playing well in their final tuneup before the start of the playoffs this weekend.

“The main thing is we’re healthy and we’re fresh,” reserve guard Patty Mills said after Monday night’s 99-98 loss in Portland.

The Spurs (61-20) have clinched the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and will play No. 7 seed Memphis (43-38) in the first round.

The series starts either Saturday or Sunday at the AT&T Center.

San Antonio led the series against Utah 2-1 and won the last meeting, 109-103, on April 2 at the AT&T Center. Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 25 points. He has averaged 28 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists in three games against the Jazz.

The Silver and Black will face a Utah team still in contention for the No. 4 seed in the West and home-court advance in the first round. The Jazz (50-31) are deadlocked with the Los Angeles Clippers heading into the last night of the regular season. Because the Clippers own the tiebreaker, Utah needs a victory over the Spurs and a Clippers loss to Sacramento to clinch the No. 4.

The top eight teams in each of the NBA’s two conferences advance to the postseason.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is expected to play his starters for three quarters Wednesday night, just as he did in the loss to the Trail Blazers on Monday. Portland pulled out the last-second victory despite sitting its top five scorers.

While they will finish with the second-best record in the NBA and their second 60-win season in three years, the Silver and Black have dropped two of their last three games. They will have to beat the Jazz to avoid their first three-game skid of the season.

A victory by the Spurs on Wednesday night would be their 31st on the road this season, breaking a franchise record. The 2013-14 team went 30-11 at the AT&T Center and went on to win the franchise’s fifth NBA title.

While the Spurs are trying to become more disciplined and consistent as they head into the playoffs, they’re also preparing for their playoff series against Memphis.

“We’re focusing on playing different ways,” Mills said. “I think that’s been our mindset the last couple of games. Playoffs are a different beast. We need to be able to adjust on the fly. That’s what we’ve been doing, testing things out.

“In that sense, as a team, we’ve got to able to do that, so that’s we’re doing, (making) different adjustments through the game. Memphis, especially, is very physical. We need to be ready if things change, or the game plan changes. That’s what the playoffs are all about.”

All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard has been the Spurs’ best, most consistent player throughout the season, averaging 25.7 points. 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals. The key to how far the Silver and Black go in the playoffs could lie in how much help LaMarcus Aldridge, himself a five-team All-Star power forward, can help Leonard with the scoring load.

Aldridge, the team’s No. 2 scorer, has averaged 17.3 and 7.3 rebounds in his second season with the Spurs.

Mills expressed confidence in Aldridge when he was asked how he expects the player known as “L.A.” in the Spurs’ locker room to play in the postseason.

“Take over, take over,” Mills said. “He knows that and he believes in himself, obviously. I think that’s what we’ll see.”

Next up for Spurs after Wednesday's game: vs. Memphis Grizzlies, Game 1, first-round playoff series, TBD.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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