By Paul Garcia and Michael De Leon
The San Antonio Spurs entered tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz with little to prove. They had locked up the Western Conference and still hold the number one seed in the playoffs, keeping the Chicago Bulls at arms-length away.
While some teams will cruise through the final regular season games, the Spurs saw it as an opportunity.
“I think Pop is trying to do exactly what he’s doing right now. He’s trying to get us good minutes,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. “We’re trying to win these games obviously, but we’re trying to play the right amount of minutes and make sure everyone’s healthy and fresh.”
After two days off, the Spurs started the game rusty with four empty trips up the floor. But it didn’t take long after for the Spurs to get started.
Both teams traded buckets early and tied the game with 10 points apiece midway through the first quarter.
Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili one-upped the efforts by Al Jefferson and Devin Harris, ending the quarter up 25-22.
As has been the case all season, how the Spurs defend in the post against some of the league’s better bigs is a determining factor in the game more times than not.
Their chances were looking bleak early with Al Jeffferson, Jeremy Evans and Derrick Favors getting to the rim at will. But while the Jazz relied on their strength on the inside, the Spurs answered back with their strength, outside shooting.
Gary Neal entered the game and made quick work of the Jazz perimeter defense, knocking down two three-pointers and a pair of jumpers for 10 points in 14 minutes.
The Spurs put on a show to close out the first half with a highlight dunk by George Hill and an alley-oop dunk by Jefferson, which sent the Jazz to their locker room down 11.no comments