Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Game Preview: Spurs-Jazz

The Utah Jazz are likely excited about returning home following a winless five-game road trip.

They’re probably not too thrilled, however, to see who’s waiting for them.

The NBA-best San Antonio Spurs, who expect to have Tim Duncan in their lineup, look to hand the scuffling Jazz a sixth straight defeat Wednesday night.

After winning five of its first seven games of January, Utah (27-18) set off on a week-long trip featuring several favorable matchups. The Jazz failed to pick up a single victory, however, losing to last-place teams Washington and New Jersey, as well as Boston, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The loss to the Lakers on Tuesday was especially embarrassing. Utah fell behind by 17 points in the first quarter, 28 in the second and ended up losing 120-91.

“We’ve lacked chemistry and continuity on offense and on defense and we’re not trusting each other,” Deron Williams said. “We couldn’t execute and we couldn’t get stops against teams with the worst records in the NBA, and coming in to play one of the better teams in the league, it got ugly.”

A sluggish offense has been the biggest reason for Utah’s longest skid since dropping six straight Dec. 4-14, 2007.

The Jazz are averaging 91.6 points in the last five games after averaging 118.3 in winning their previous three. Getting their offense on track could be difficult against a Spurs team that has held nine of its last 10 opponents to 97 points or fewer.

While Utah, 12-4 at home since Nov. 22, has dropped each of its last five games, San Antonio has just five losses in its last 30 contests.

Part of the reason the Spurs (38-7) have been so successful is they’ve managed to avoid injury, playing with the same starting five in every game this season. It looked like that streak could be in jeopardy, though, when Duncan left Monday’s 113-102 win over Golden State with a left knee injury.

Duncan was setting a pick in the second quarter when he turned to roll to the basket and his knee buckled slightly. The 12-time All-Star fell to the floor and had to be helped up before eventually walking to the locker room under his own power.

The injury doesn’t seem as serious as it originally appeared, as Duncan returned to start the third quarter. Diagnosed with a hyperflexed left knee, Duncan played his usual minutes, finished with 16 points and seven rebounds and showed no signs of being hobbled.

“I think he’s going to be all right,” Gregg Popovich said. “He just kind of hyperextended it, but he said it felt good, worked it out and said it was good. He’s his own best judge.”

With Monday’s victory, the Spurs clinched the Western Conference’s best record through Feb. 6, meaning Popovich will coach the West in the All-Star game.

The All-Star game’s starting lineups will be announced Thursday, and there’s a chance Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker could be named to the West’s roster.

Ginobili, who averages a team-high 18.6 points, had 20 points and seven assists against the Warriors, with Parker adding 18 points and 11 assists.

Parker had 24 points and seven assists to lead the Spurs to a 94-82 win in Utah on Nov. 19, while Duncan had 19 points and 14 rebounds, as San Antonio snapped a four-game losing streak in the series.

Williams, fourth in the NBA with an average of 9.4 assists, had 23 points for the Jazz in the first meeting but matched a season low with five assists. Utah is 1-9 when Williams has six or fewer assists.


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