San Antonio Spurs 104, Utah Jazz 97: Spurs offense adjusts, struggles, survives
AT&T CENTER — With the return of Tony Parker to the San Antonio Spurs lineup on Friday night, one could expect the league’s fifth-best offense to get a positive bump. Before going down with an ankle injury on March 1 against the Sacramento Kings, Parker was captaining the Spurs’ offense with the type of control that few players in the league are able to achieve.
His return, however, did not quite have the desired effect for the vast majority of the Spurs’ 104-97 overtime victory over the Utah Jazz. Parker played well in the second half en route to leading San Antonio in scoring with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, but the Spurs offense sputtered and stumbled to a 99.5 offensive rating. San Antonio also only assisted on 23 of its 39 made field goals, usually an indicator that the offense wasn’t humming along as normal.
The Jazz seemed able to play more compact defensively, crowding passing lanes and preventing easy looks around the rim. They forced 17 turnovers by the Spurs (five coming from Manu Ginobili, who had a rough game) and generally mucked things up on that end of the floor.
“I thought Tony was a little bit shy in the first half. He was trying to feel his way a little bit,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said later.
Trailing 65-63 going into the fourth quarter, Coach Pop resurrected Matt Bonner in an effort to open up the offense. Last season the pairing of Bonner and Tiago Splitter on the San Antonio second unit created one of the most well-spaced offenses in all of basketball and Pop went back to that tandem in an effort to jumpstart his team’s attack.
It seemed to work temporarily, as the Spurs built some momentum and took a one-point lead just a couple minutes into the period. San Antonio then regressed and fell behind by five points just two minutes later.
With three minutes left in the game and the Spurs down 81-80, Pop finally found the lineup that would shake up his stagnant offense. Off the floor came Splitter and in went Manu Ginobili, sliding Kawhi Leonard over to the power forward position. With Parker and Danny Green also on the floor, the Spurs were able to spread the floor with competent shooters and run high pick-and-rolls with Duncan, giving Parker driving lanes he struggled to find earlier in the game.
Over the three minutes the Spurs went small, San Antonio scored 11 points on six possessions. On only one trip down the floor did the Spurs fail to pick up any points, fittingly on a Ginobili turnover. Had Ginobili not also botched a defensive rotation on the last play of regulation, the move would’ve been a winning one for the Spurs. But instead, Marvin Williams sunk a corner 3 as time expired in the fourth to force overtime.
In overtime, Parker and Leonard (21 points on 9-of-14 shooting and eight rebounds on the night) combined for 11 points as the Spurs outscored the Jazz 14-7.
With Parker rejoining the lineup, it was an evening of adjustments for the Spurs. San Antonio had to figure out its rhythm and timing with Parker initiating the offense again instead of Cory Joseph, and Parker himself had to figure out how to be effective while not yet regaining that extra burst he typically has when in game shape. Luckily for the Spurs, both seemed to have recovered enough in the nick of time to get the win.