With 8:49 remaining in the fourth quarter, it seemed like the San Antonio Spurs were going to extend their 11-game winning streak to 12, as they were leading the Utah Jazz 75-67 in Utah on Monday evening.
The Spurs had come into the game “Big three”-less, as All-Star Tony Parker, forward Tim Duncan, and guard Manu Ginobili all stayed behind in San Antonio on Monday. The Spurs’ bench and reserves had their biggest test in the Jazz, as the Jazz are fighting for a playoff position.
Missing the Big three would be evident as the Spurs couldn’t hold onto their eight-point lead as the Jazz outscored them 24-9 to finish the game with a 91-84 victory.
For the Spurs, this was a winnable game, as they battled in every quarter on Monday evening. DeJuan Blair (13 points) got the team going with 11 points in the first quarter as the Jazz lead 23-19 after one.
In the second quarter, Gary Neal (14 points) would find his stroke as he scored six points and Australian point guard Patty Mills (9 points), who started in place of Parker, would score seven points in the second quarter as the Jazz went into halftime with a narrow 47-44 lead.
The biggest problem for both teams in the first half was turnovers, as the Spurs (8) and Jazz (7) combined for 15 turnovers in the first half.
The turnovers continued in the third quarter as the Jazz collected 10, and the Spurs collected four. There were also some runs made as the Spurs used a 9-0 run midway through the third to take the lead from Utah, but the Jazz would swing back with their own 7-0 run to stay within reach of the Spurs. Entering the final period, the Spurs were leading 68-64.
The Spurs started the fourth quarter with a quick 8-3 run, as their lead rose to eight points. At this point, it seemed like the pressure of playing on the road without the ‘Big three’ was not affecting this group of Spurs players.
But then, Devin Harris would remind the Spurs what Tony Parker brings to both sides of the floor as Harris would lead the Jazz’s charge with 11 points in the fourth quarter, to finish with a game-high 25 points. Without Parker there to attack Harris, he had an easier night defensively, while Parker’s defense was missing as Neal just didn’t have the speed to stay with Harris on the defensive end.
Neal did all he could with five points in the final period, but the Spurs simply couldn’t execute to end the final period as the Jazz used their home crowds energy to propel the team to victory.
It was evident the Big three weren’t playing as the Spurs were only able to manage scoring 16 points in the final quarter.
With the loss, the Spurs fall to 40-15 on the season, and move back to second place in the Western Conference as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday. The Spurs also fall to 0-7 when Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker don’t play in a game. Their 11-game winning streak was snapped the same way their last winning streak was snapped, in a game where resting the ‘Big three’ was more important than another win or playoff positioning.
The Spurs are 17-11 on the road now, but will be heading back home to the AT&T Center (23-4) as they prepare for a back-to-back on Wednesday, as they host the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.