Jazz out to slow Spurs’ push for playoff

Field Level Media

August 06, 2020 at 4:13 pm.

The midway juncture of the NBA’s season-ending seeding action finds the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs in slightly better positions than when the eight-game restart began last week.

How the teams play against each other in two games — the first of which will be contested Friday afternoon at the HP Field House near Orlando — will determine where, and in the Spurs’ case if — they will end up when the postseason begins.

The Jazz and Spurs also will play on Aug. 13 to wrap up their schedules in the NBA restart, the league’s return to play after the season was halted March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Utah (43-25) is clinging to fourth place in the Western Conference after a 124-115 win over Memphis on Wednesday. Houston, which was scheduled to play late Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers, and Oklahoma City are a half-game behind in the standings. The Jazz likely will play either the Thunder or the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs.

Joe Ingles scored 25 points while Mike Conley hit for 23 points and Rudy Gobert added 21 points and 16 rebounds in the win for Utah. Donovan Mitchell chipped in 18 points as the Jazz used a 14-3 run, culminating in back-to-back 3-pointers from Ingles, to take a 116-105 lead with 2:51 remaining.

The Jazz were 18 of 45 (40 percent) from beyond the arc after going a combined 28 of 108 (25.9 percent) from the 3-point line through their first three seeding games. Utah is 2-2 since the NBA restart.

“We were the highest percentage catch-and-shoot team in the league for 60 games,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “I don’t think our guys have forgotten that. They just need to take them and keep taking them.”

Ingles went 6 of 11 on 3-pointers in the win over Memphis after taking only 11 threes combined in Utah’s first three games of the restart.

“Everyone’s probably passed up a bit (of the threes) and not been as aggressive, probably not taking advantage of some opportunities,” Ingles told The Deseret News. “Obviously picking my spots and my time was key, finding when I can be aggressive.

“The more confidence we have in each other, the more we’ll keep doing that.”

San Antonio heads into Friday’s game on the heels of a 132-126 loss to Denver on Wednesday.

The Spurs (29-38), who have dropped two straight, remained in 10th place in the West after Wednesday’s loss.

Rudy Gay paced San Antonio with 24 points off the bench in the defeat. Derrick White added 23, Keldon Johnson scored 20 points, DeMar DeRozan poured in 18, and Patty Mills and Drew Eubanks scored 14 and 12 points, respectively for the Spurs, who are also 2-2 in the restart.

The Spurs got a season-high 70 points from their bench in the loss.

“We’ve lost the past two games but the whole team has come a long way,” Mills said. “The mindset of this team is good as is the growth of the young guys who are learning on the fly. There’s a lot to play for, too, but their development is important.

“Our whole approach is about the young guys, about playing meaningful games. You always want to win, but we understand where we are going with our future. It’s a process.”

San Antonio must climb over Portland into ninth place and stay within four games of Memphis in the standings to secure a spot in a play-in tournament for a chance to participate in the postseason for an NBA-record 23rd straight year. After Wednesday’s game, they were two games behind the Grizzlies and one game behind the Trail Blazers.