SAN ANTONIO — Five days can make quite the difference.
Less than a week after the Jazz blew out San Antonio in Salt Lake City, the Spurs returned the favor. Led by a strong midrange attack, San Antonio beat Utah 110-97 Sunday at AT&T Center.
“It’s hard to play the same team twice in five days, especially with a coach like (Greg) Popovich who knows how to prepare,” Ricky Rubio said.
This time around the Jazz didn’t have a historic 3-point shooting night. In fact, they mostly struggled on the offensive end. Utah shot 43.5 percent from the field and hit on just 9-of-29 of its 3-point attempts — making 11 less than they made in their last matchup against the Spurs. The Jazz also had just three players in double figures, led by Donovan Mitchell’s 27.
Utah fell to 13-14 on the year with the loss. The Jazz will play at Oklahoma City on Monday.
“We didn’t play with enough force and we became really reliant on just jump shots,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “And when you are making them it gives you a lift.”
But when they aren’t falling, it’s hard to win games. Or even stay in them.
Jae Crowder went 1-for-6 from the field, Joe Ingles missed both of his 3-point attempts and Kyle Korver went 2-for-6. The missed shots led to just a 36-point first half from Utah and that allowed the Spurs to jump out to a big lead.
Between the end of the first quarter and start of the second, the Spurs went on a 17-0 run. That stretch was led by Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli — two bench players — and it gave the Spurs a lead they would never give up.
“They hit shots, we didn't execute really well on offense,” Mitchell said. “... Our offense, hurt our defense a little bit.”
The 17-0 run all happened when Rudy Gobert was off the court. But once the reigning Defensive Player of the Year came back, things didn’t get all that much better. The Jazz trailed by 18 at halftime and were down by as many as 21 points in the contest.
Utah couldn’t figure out the Spurs’ pick-and-pop game and that allowed LaMarcus Aldridge and Demar DeRozan a nearly endless supply of open midrange jumpers.
Sometimes the Jazz bigs didn’t close out high enough, too. Sometimes the Utah guards allowed San Antonio to penetrate too deep. It was rarely the same problem, but there always seemed to be one.
DeRozan finished with 26 points and Aldridge had 20.
“We didn’t do a good job guarding their guards midrange in the pick and rolll,” Snyder said.
But Utah did respond in the second half. After a scoreless first half, Mitchell poured in 27 after the break to lead the Jazz charge. And when he connected on a deep 3-pointer with 10:15 left in the game, it cut the Spurs’ lead to five.
It was part of a dynamic second half from the Utah backcourt. Mitchell scored all of his 27 points after halftime and Rubio did his part by scoring 26.
Mitchell finished 8-for-21 on the night and hit three 3-pointers. Rubio went 11-for-23 on the night and 3-for-8 from deep.
“I think our guys responded,” Snyder said. “You put yourself in a position where sometimes the response isn’t good enough to win the game.”
That was the case on Sunday. The Spurs made plays down the stretch — most notably Rudy Gay, who made some difficult shots in the fourth quarter on his way to a 23-point night — to keep the Jazz at arm’s length. And when San Antonio went on a 7-0 run late in the fourth, it put the game away for good.