A good shooter can never be counted out of any contest.
Take Richard Jefferson of the San Antonio Spurs, he was 0-of-4 shooting before the fourth quarter of San Antonio’s 106-102 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday.
With 40 seconds remaining, and the Spurs holding a slim 102-100 lead, guard Gary Neal (14 points) swung the ball to a wide open Jefferson who made a three pointer from the corner with six seconds remaining to give the Spurs a 105-100 lead, which would lead to the Spurs’ 11th straight win.
In the Spurs’ first game without both Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter, Tony Parker once again lead the way with 23 points and 11 assists, but he also got some help as both Tim Duncan and Matt Bonner chipped in with 20 points a piece, Bonner specifically was 5-of-6 from three point range.
Al Jefferson (20 points, 11 rebounds) and the Jazz dominated the Spurs in the paint in the first quarter as Jefferson had eight of the Jazz’s 22 paint points in the first quarter. Bonner was 3-of-3 from distance and helped keep the Spurs close with nine points as the Jazz took a 30-26 lead into the second quarter.
Tony Parker had 10 points in the second quarter as he, alongside DeJuan Blair (15 points) sparked a 9-0 Spurs run midway through the second quarter. The Spurs’ defense played better as they held Utah to 2-of-10 shooting outside of the paint in the second quarter, as the Spurs lead 56-53 going into halftime.
The third quarter looked like it was time for the Spurs’ win streak to come to an end as the Jazz came out with a 13-0 run to begin the third quarter. The Spurs couldn’t connect on any shots and turnovers didn’t help as Utah’s lead rose to 11 points. Bonner once again helped fuel the Spurs with six points in the quarter as the Spurs went on a small 6-0 run. That run would eventually transfer to the Spurs outscoring the Jazz 24-14 to end the third quarter, as Gary Neal capped off the final three points for the Spurs as he hit another buzzer beating three pointer. Both teams were tied at 80 going into the final period.
Depth was the key in the fourth quarter as unlikely players like James Anderson provided big minutes, Neal scored six points in the final quarter, and Jefferson’s five points in the fourth quarter eventually lead to his big shot that was sunk to help the Spurs win the game. The Spurs escaped Utah with a win despite giving up 56 points in the paint. But, the Spurs’ bench came through without Splitter as they outscored Utah 43-31 in bench points.
The Spurs are now 23-9 on the season, hold the longest winning streak this season, are 10-8 on the road, and are undefeated on the Rodeo Road Trip (7-0). The Spurs will fly to Portland, Oregon to face the Trail Blazers on Tuesday evening. The Blazers played in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Monday, so both teams will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back.