SAN ANTONIO — Midway through the fourth quarter, Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson hit back-to-back layups to cut the Spurs lead to 5. Then DeMar DeRozan hit a midrange jumper.
One minute later, Donovan Mitchell made a short jumper to keep the Jazz close. Then DeMar DeRozan hit a midrange jumper.
With under two minutes remaining, Rudy Gobert hit two free throws to once again cut the Spurs lead to five. Then DeRozan hit a midrange jumper.
For the second straight night, the Jazz let someone get loose. On Monday, it was Eric Gordon dropping 50 points. Two nights later, it was DeRozan’s turn.
DeRozan scored 38 points as the Spurs beat the Jazz 127-120 on Wednesday at AT&T Center. And he did with the shot the Jazz wanted him to take. Problem is, he likes to take it, too.
“He's going to get some shots,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He's got size, he's athletic, he can rise up, he shoots the ball. His release point is really high. If we are contesting those shots, he's going to make some of them, but we can't foul.”
The Jazz (32-15) want to give up midrange shots. It’s an inefficient shot that usually hurts offenses, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to guard it. And Utah, especially in the opening two quarters, wasn't doing a great job of doing that.
For much of the first half, San Antonio was flirting with shooting 70% from the field (they ended up at 64.3%) by shooting 18 of 25 from on shots outside of the restricted area and inside the 3-point line. That’s an absurd number — and led to Jazz surrendering 70 points in the first two quarters.
“Well, you know, those are shots that I wouldn't say you want to allow, but if they're contested shots — we weren't as aggressive contesting them,” Snyder said. “I think we got better as the game (went on).”
But, as Mitchell went on to say, it was too late.
“Honestly, sometimes you go out there and it's between the ears,” Mitchell said. “It's nothing physical, we communicate, we did things — we just got to do it with a little more force. As the game went on, we progressed and started playing better but once a team is hot, a team is comfortable, it doesn't matter what you do at that point and that's really what tonight was.”
It wasn’t just DeRozan. DeJounte Murray was 7 of 10 from the field, and Patty Mills and Marco Bellinili were perfect from inside the 3-point line. And even when the Jazz started contesting, they fouled too much. The Spurs were 27 of 30 from the free-throw line.
And yet, the Jazz hung around.
They hung around even when San Antonio shot 64.3% in the first half.
They hung around even when Gobert picked up his fourth foul in the first minute of the third quarter.
They hung around even when they fell behind by 15 in the third quarter.
Mitchell led the Jazz with 31 points, Clarkson added 20 off the bench and Gobert had 17 points and 19 rebounds in the loss.
They teased a comeback — and then teased one again, but, in the end — DeMar DeRozan hit a midrange jumper.
“I think that the biggest thing for us is, where do we go from here?” Mitchell said. “I think you can go one of two ways, you can let it keep happening or you can do something about it. In the beginning of the year, we kind of let it drag on and you guys know how that was.”