Spurs vs. Jazz: First vs. Worst

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The San Antonio Spurs head back out on the road to take on the Utah Jazz tonight. The two teams come in to the Friday night matchup at a combined record of 9-9. The only problem is one team is 8-1 and the other is 1-8. Long story short, tonight’s match up of the West’s first and last place teams shouldn’t be close.

Normally, this is where we say “yeah, but this is the game where the heavy favorite road team gets tripped up.” Only, so far this young season, the Spurs have shown they don’t play down to their competition and road games in no way spook them (more on that in a bit). Here’s all you need to know about the Utah Jazz this season. According to ESPN.com, they rank dead last in the league in offensive efficiency and tied for second to last in defensive efficiency. The guy they handed the car keys to, Trey Burke, got hurt before he could even get the car out of the driveway. Right now, their starting small forward is Richard Jefferson, so that’s an adventure at this point in his career. There’s also not a ton of depth at any position.

What do Spurs fans have to worry about? Contract Year Gordon Hayward is playing really well. 20 points, five assists and six rebounds from your starting shooting guard is fantastic. The shooting numbers could be a little better, but Hayward is asked to do a lot for this team, especially while Burke recovers from injury. Utah also has two bulls in the middle with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Both are playing the best basketball of their early careers. Favors is averaging a double-double and a couple of blocks a game. Favors’ problem is while he’s averaging more than 13 points a game, he’s shooting worse from the field than Hayward. Meanwhile, Kanter’s 16 points and seven boards a game are also well above his averages through the first couple of years of his career.

The Favors-Kanter duo has even done a decent job protecting the paint. According to NBA’s stats page, teams are shooting 58 percent from five feet and in against Utah, which is good for 12th in the league. Past that, their defense is a mess and the offense is even worse. With all that said, what should we expect tonight? Here’s a few predictions.

-First, I still expect Tony Parker to have no problems getting into the paint. Whether he’s penetrating himself or not doesn’t matter, because he’ll be able to find open shooters. I get the feeling this game will be a lot like Philadelphia for Parker. He scored 14 points, dished out nine assists and made very few errors.

-Expect the Spurs to start fast because, well, that’s what they’ve been doing the last three games, outscoring their opponents by a combined 44 points. The defense has been even better than the offense, holding opponents to an average of just under 16 points in those first quarters.

-We will see three bro hugs given to Jefferson by Spurs players and one genuine hug from Coach Popovich. I think Pop appreciated Jefferson’s effort to change his game after season one with the Spurs. Things just didn’t work out. It happens.

-Final score: Spurs 101, Jazz 87. You’re welcome, Jazz fans. One win closer to Andrew Wiggins.