Preview: San Antonio At Utah
When: 10:30 PM ET, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
The San Antonio Spurs have dominated Utah twice this season and look to make it three consecutive victories over the Jazz in Thursday’s road contest. Both the previous meetings were in San Antonio and the Spurs averaged 120.5 points in the two games while winning by an average of 31 points.
Utah currently possesses the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference and coach Quin Snyder is seeing progress, especially after his club survived a night of miscues to produce a 117-114 overtime victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday. “You have to learn how to play through mistakes, you have to learn toughness, and you have to learn how to win,” Snyder told reporters. “This was not a pretty game by any means, but it’s a game that we won. We’ve got a group that’s learning how to do that.” San Antonio All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard (calf) returned from a three-game absence on Wednesday to contribute 18 points and eight rebounds against Sacramento and the defensive issues during his time away quickly evaporated. The Spurs posted a 108-92 over the Kings after allowing an average of 109.7 without Leonard, significantly higher than the NBA-low 92.7 they are giving up for the season.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (San Antonio), ROOT (Utah)
ABOUT THE SPURS (48-9): Point guard Tony Parker is averaging 23.3 points during the past three games and had a solid game against the Kings by scoring 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting to go with six assists. Leonard’s performance was up to the par on the defensive side but he struggled with his shooting rhythm and was just 5-of-16 from the field. “It didn’t feel good at all,” Leonard said afterward. “My teammates did a great job of driving and kicking the ball out to get me some open shots. The rhythm will come.”
ABOUT THE JAZZ (28-28): Small forward Gordon Hayward is on a roll with six 20-point outings in the past seven games and he was highly efficient while scoring 28 points against the Rockets. Hayward took just seven shots — making six — to become the first NBA player since Chauncey Billups (29 in 2006) to score 28 or more points on just seven field-goal attempts. Hayward is averaging 21.9 points during his seven-game hot stretch but is averaging just 11 points against the Spurs this season, including a season-low four Dec. 14.
1. The Jazz have won their past two home games against the Spurs.
2. San Antonio PF LaMarcus Aldridge had just seven points on 2-of-11 against Sacramento and is averaging just 13 points in four games since the All-Star break.
3. Utah PG Shelvin Mack started against the Rockets and is averaging 16.5 points in two games since being acquired from the Atlanta Hawks.
PREDICTION: Spurs 103, Jazz 101