In finishing off the Utah Jazz 87-81 last night, the San Antonio Spurs showed why they’re one of the best teams in the NBA: the depth of their bench. The Spurs’ reserves outscored the Jazz 57-10, led by Manu Ginobili’s 17, which is great news for Spurs fans because Manu had been struggling in the first three games.
Game 4 was definitely the biggest defensive battle between the two teams, with the Spurs failing to score 100 for the first time in the series. The teams combined for only 168 points, which was about 30 less than what they’d been averaging. Both teams shot under 40% and Utah was 0-13 from beyond the arc. There were 12 blocks in the game, including some hard rejections on Tiago Splitter and Tony Parker, and this was clearly the most physical the two teams played all series.
The Spurs were able to jump out to a quick 11-4 lead in the first quarter because of Utah’s terrible shooting, but after a Utah timeout, Devin Harris got it going and scored six points as part of a 12-4 Utah run when the Spurs called their first timeout down 16-15. The Jazz were actually able to extend their lead to 19-15 but the Spurs went on a 7-0 run to close out the quarter up 22-19.
The Spurs bench came alive in the second quarter. Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal were all playing well and got the Spurs up 36-22. For the most part, the game went back and forth until halftime with the Spurs up 50-42 at the break.
The third quarter was definitely the worst for offense and a tough one to watch. The Spurs weren’t able to put any points up until Kawhi Leonard finally hit a three-pointer at the 9:22 mark, but luckily the Jazz were struggling just as much and had only managed to hit two free throws up until that point. Tony Parker went on a mini-run hitting a three-point shot and scoring a three-point play the old fashioned way, perhaps in retaliation for getting rejected by Devin Harris, and the Spurs were back up 13 with about eight minutes to go in the quarter.
The offensive woes continued in the third period as about two minutes went by without another field goal, but then the Jazz made a move and after an Al Jefferson jumper the Jazz were back within three with 3:17 left in the quarter. But that was all the Jazz would score in the 3rd as they went cold and Manu hit back-to-back 3’s, his first in the series, and the Spurs finished the quarter up 68-58.
Utah's shooting troubles continued into the 4th as they went all the way to the 7:09 mark before putting in their first points of the quarter. Going back to the 3rd, that was about eight minutes without a single point and all of a sudden the Spurs were up 16 and it looked like they were putting the final nail in the coffin.
The biggest lead of the game for the Spurs came after Gary Neal’s 3-pointer that put them up 81-60 with 6:16 to go. It’s kind of funny that the Jazz waited until this point to show the most intensity we’d seen all series. The Spurs went cold and the Jazz went on an amazing 19-2 run to close the gap to 83-79 with 49 seconds to go. After Parker missed a shot with 28 seconds left, it looked like the Jazz might have a chance, but Paul Millsap lost the ball and Parker was able to throw it ahead to Ginobili (who wisely decided not to take off from the free throw line this time) and he laid it up for the dagger. Spurs win 87-81.
The Spurs were able to survive the final late scare from the Jazz, and hopefully they take that little piece of experience with them for the rest of the postseason. It’s never over until it’s over.
Spurs now get to rest as they await the winner of the Grizzlies-Clippers matchup. They’ve earned it.