San Antonio • The Utah Jazz fought to the end, but whether Wednesday night’s ending in the Alamo City was truly bitter will depend on your belief in moral victories.
The Jazz lost, as they had already done 26 other times this season, falling to the San Antonio Spurs 109-105 at AT&T Center. Even so, head coach Ty Corbin saw cause for hope amid defeat, after watching his team cut an 18-point Spurs lead down to 2 before free throws sealed loss No. 27 for the Jazz.
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"The only way we’re going to get better is to continue to fight as hard as we fought tonight," Corbin said. "There are no moral victories in this league, but if we get this kind of effort on a nightly basis, we have a chance to win our fair share of games."
Up 14 with under three minutes to play, the first-place Spurs had all but packed up. San Antonio had outscored the Jazz in each of the first three quarters. Tim Duncan had already scored 15 points and All-Star point guard Tony Parker already had 22 of his 25 points.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich "probably thought that it was over," guard Manu Ginobili said afterward.
A young Jazz team wanted to prove that it was not.
"Utah kept on pushing," Popovich said. "They’ve always been a gritty, physical group. They never give in."
Enes Kanter scored two quick buckets — just part of a 25-point, 11-rebound night in which he hit on all seven of his fourth-quarter shots.
Alec Burks, making his third start in place of the injured Gordon Hayward, soared in for a slam dunk, two of his 20 points.
Then point guard Trey Burke caught fire. The rookie floor leader scored 11 points in the game’s final 65 seconds, bringing the Jazz to within two points of San Antonio.
"It just shows you who he is," Corbin said of Burke. "There’s not a moment that’s too big for him."
With 4.3 seconds left on the clock, the Jazz fouled and Spurs guard Marco Belinelli hit his free throws to push San Antonio to 31-8 on the year.
"We played the fourth quarter the way we were supposed to play in the third," Burke, who finished with 17 points and 11 assists, said. "We know we have to play with a lot of intensity and we didn’t. They came out and they threw the first punch and they went on a run. We can’t dig ourselves a hole like that."
Still, this wasn’t the first Jazz team to fall in San Antonio. The Spurs had won five straight over the Jazz in south Texas coming into Wednesday night. Utah, meanwhile, was without its leading scorer in Hayward, who is dealing with a hip flexor injury.
The Jazz compensated by working inside. Utah scored 70 points in the paint, the most the Spurs have allowed this season, thanks to a fine outing by Kanter and fellow big man Derrick Favors.
Concerned about spacing the floor, Corbin had gone away from playing the two side by side in the frontcourt, though he’s expressed an interest in revisiting the tandem.
Wednesday was the duo’s best showing "in quite a while," Corbin said. "We can use those guys together when the size and the matchups allow us to. We want to be able to force that on other teams at times and we hadn’t been able to do that man times yet. It’s something we’ll try to grow to."
Favors finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, though he said afterward he wasn’t too interested in moral victories.
"You still mad that you lost," he said. "You can’t have too many of those where you play a good game but you’re happy you lost to a good team. We can’t have too many of those."
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