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Aaron Falk and Steve Luhm cover the Utah Jazz and the NBA for The Salt Lake Tribune. The Tribune on Twitter - Aaron Falk: @tribjazz, Steve Luhm: @sluhm

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Utah Jazz postgame wrap — Millsap insulted by no Big Three; Popovich digs Ahearn

Jazz forward Paul Millsap said it was a "slap in the face."

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Respected San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich continued to try and outsmart the 2011-12 lockout-compressed season, refusing to bring Spurs stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to Salt Lake City on Monday for Utah's 91-84 win.

Millsap acknowledged his team was insulted by Popovich's gamble, saying the Jazz took extra inspiration from the no-show.

"I think that was a little motivation that … got us through, just thinking about that," Millsap said.

Popovich on soon-to-be Jazz guard Blake Ahearn: He can put it in the hole. I really enjoyed him. I think he's a really good basketball player. He has a good feel for the game and he can shoot an open shot. I think he's a good player and deserves to be in the league.

Resting Duncan, Parker, Ginobili: We're trying to survive. Our schedule speaks for itself. If you look at the schedule, you can figure it out real quickly.

Five games in seven days: However you want to do it. Thirteen games in 18 days or 16 games in 23 days. Ending the season four out of five nights. It's just crazy. So I've got to do something about it, and it just doesn't make sense to have those guys playing four in five nights, three in a row, or anything like that.

When he started planning to rest key players: The beginning of the season.

Jeremy Evans (sprained right ankle) will be a game-time decision Wednesday at Houston. Evans said he hopes to be active and will re-evaluate his ankle Tuesday.

Evans on his ankle: … The more pressure I put on it, hopefully the quicker it gets better. I've done it so many times before in college, that I know how it feels. … God's blessed me to stay away from these injuries and hopefully this one's not too bad.

Gordon Hayward on Devin Harris' recent mastery of the 3-point shot: We shoot before every single game and a lot of times shoot against each other at practice, too. I think the biggest thing for him is just shooting it, not thinking about it. Just letting it fly. We talked about that earlier in the season. He always has his biggest games when he goes up there and does what he used to do. He just gets 'em up and doesn't worry about it. No hesitation.

Harris' transition 3s: As you can see, there's no hesitation. He just dribbles into it and pulls up and those are huge. Those are momentum-changers, especially at home — got the crowd right back into it. As soon as you start hitting a couple of those, it just opens up all facets of his game.

Josh Howard said he'll travel for Utah's three-game road trip. Raja Bell also will make the trip. Neither will be active.

Ahearn's expected to join the Jazz on Tuesday and likely will practice.

John Stockton and Greg Ostertag attended Monday's game. Stockton was introduced on the jumbotron and received a standing ovation. He then smiled and waved at Tyrone Corbin while the Jazz coach gave his postgame interview. Ostertag jokingly interrupted Corbin's answers to say Utah could use a center who can set an actual screen. Corbin sort of jokingly reminded Ostertag reporters had recorders rolling.

Utah was down to nine active players Monday after Evans left the game. Harris, Millsap and Hayward stepped up big time. If the Jazz make the playoffs, Harris will have built a bridge to the postseason, while Monday's victory could be a season-changer.

Lost in the Jazz's come-from-behind win Monday: the losses of Earl Watson and C.J. Miles. Utah's road to the playoffs only got tougher, and going 1-1 against the Spurs in an away-home back-to-back series doesn't look as good as it should.

Interested to see what Ahearn can do. The Jazz have desperately needed 3-point shooting all season. Anyone who can put up the numbers he did in the D-League can stroke it. Even if it was just in the D-League.

The Jazz should've beat a Spurs team without its Big Three and struggled to do so. Utah's three-game road trip against Houston, New Orleans and Memphis will be the team's biggest contests of the season thus far.

Popovich might be the best interview — and quote — in the NBA. Pretty good coach, too.

Popovich joyously ignores 'bull[crap]' keys to the game

Harris finally making a name for himself in Salt Lake City

Radio: Scheduled to appear on 97.5 FM The Zone Tuesday morning to talk about the Jazz.

Starting something new Tuesday. Opening up a weekly Jazz mailbag. Questions can be submitted via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or on the Jazz Notes blog. Answers for the top-10 Qs will be provided Friday during a weekly live video chat. Tentative tipoff is 1 p.m. MT Friday before Utah plays at New Orleans. Ask anything you want. I'll do my best to answer everything. Thanks in advance for firing away.

Thanks also to everyone who hung out during Monday's impromptu live airplane chat during the flight from San Antonio to SLC. Lot of fun and cool stuff.

Eight more games to go. Jazz still in it. Best is probably yet to come. Rock on.

Brian T. Smith

Twitter: @tribjazz



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