Another win gets handed to Spurs
SAN ANTONIO - Tim Duncan's ankle will get all the national attention. But the Jazz's 101-94 loss to the Spurs on Sunday had a lot more to do with another body part:
"I'll tell you" why the Jazz lost, Andrei Kirilenko said afterward. "Just look at my hands."
Kirilenko's hands, flushed red from deflecting their share of San Antonio passes, had a difficult time holding onto lobs meant for him. Raja Bell's hands, penalized early in the game for pulling down Manu Ginobili on a fast break, were whistled at the worst possible moment for touching Ginobili's shooting arm. Most notably, Mehmet Okur's hands, which held a possible Jazz upset of the league's best team in their palms, threw it all away in an unselfish, but ultimately fatal, miscalcul-
"The game was in our hands," Kirilenko emphasized. "We played [with] hustle, so I'm very proud for the guys. A little bit [of] concentration in last minute, it's different."
Instead, it's all the same. Same as the last 12 trips to San Antonio, and the other seven visits to SBC Center. Same as 18 of the past 19 meetings between these two teams. And same as ever on the road, where the Jazz lost for the seventh time in eight games.
That road thing is a bigger deal than most, given that so much rode on the foul called on Bell with 30 seconds to play, a foul that the Jazz co-captain vehemently argued on the floor and his teammates insisted would not have been called in the Delta Center.
"That was a tough call on Raja," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, "but
you're not going to get that call on the road."
You're not going to get Bell to comment on it, either. While Kirilenko complained afterward that "we can't play [against] eight guys," Bell pleaded the fifth. "There's not a lot I can say tonight that will allow me to keep my money in my pocket," said Bell, fearing a fine, "so I won't elaborate."
He was clearly distraught by a foul called from underneath the basket by referee Scott Foster, however, which gave Ginobili free throws with 30.5 seconds left and the Spurs leading by two. Bell had his arms raised up, believing that any contact would be initiated by Ginobili.
The resulting free throws increased the lead to four, and when Bell drove to the basket and missed a layup on the next possession, the Spurs' 46th victory was sealed.
How different might things have been, however, had the Jazz converted the previous possession. After Okur rebounded Tony Parker's missed layup, he got the ball back just 10 feet from the basket. Rather than take the short jumper, Okur tried to shovel the ball even closer. But his pass to Kirilenko was knocked down, and Robert Horry leapt on it.
The Jazz were discouraged by their missed opportunity, but they had plenty of reason to be encouraged, too. The Spurs are 26-2 at home, were pumped up for the pomp of Sean Elliott's postgame jersey-retirement ceremony, and have a rapidly developing star in Ginobili, who finished with 31 points, making one highlight-film move after another.
So when the Spurs displayed their passing prowess early on and built a 12-point lead, it would have been easy to write off another loss.
But the Jazz closed that 12-point gap to four by halftime, and took the lead in the third quarter. San Antonio righted itself and opened a five-point lead, but Utah was back within one by the end of the period. A 10-2 run to open the fourth quarter, mostly sparked by Beno Udrih's ability to lose Jazz guard Howard Eisley on three straight possessions, put San Antonio back in front by nine. But the Jazz doggedly rallied again.
"We never gave up," Sloan said. "If they learn how to play hard all the time, they can eventually work this thing out and become a pretty good basketball team. But they have to do it for all 48 minutes."
The last three minutes were plenty heartening, though, for a team that is now only a week or two away from becoming the first Utah squad of the past 22 seasons to own a losing record.
The Spurs were without Duncan, who landed on Rasho Nesterovic's foot and sprained his right ankle four minutes into the second half. With no MVP for San Antonio to rely on, the Jazz went on an 8-3 run in the final three minutes - despite the third of three fourth-quarter turnovers by the over-exuberant Kirilenko - by stealing the ball on back-to-back possessions.
"Our defense has definitely gotten a lot better," said Harpring, who dove to the floor for one of the steals. "You can see signs that we're a lot better now."
Improvement is in their hands now. Time will tell if that's a good thing.
firstname.lastname@example.orgSpurs 101, Jazz 94
FG FT Reb
UTAH Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts
Harpring 36 5-11 2-3 4-6 2 4 12
Kirilenko 37 6-14 1-4 3-6 3 3 16
Borchardt 18 3-4 0-0 1-3 1 6 6
McLeod 37 7-15 3-4 1-4 8 3 18
Bell 34 6-9 3-4 1-8 1 6 17
Okur 30 6-11 2-2 1-7 2 2 14
Humphries 14 2-5 0-2 0-4 0 0 4
Snyder 15 1-5 3-3 1-2 0 2 5
Giricek 9 0-1 2-2 1-1 0 1 2
Eisley 10 0-3 0-0 0-1 2 2 0
Totals 240 36-78 16-24 13-42 19 29 94
Percentages: FG .462, FT .667. Three-Point Goals: 6-13, .462 (Kirilenko 3-5, Bell 2-2, McLeod 1-4, Okur 0-1, Snyder 0-1). Team Rebounds: 11. Team Turnovers: 13 (23 PTS). Blocked Shots: 8 (Kirilenko 3, Borchardt 2, Humphries 2, Okur). Turnovers: 13 (Kirilenko 5, McLeod 3, Snyder 2, Borchardt, Okur, Eisley). Steals: 6 (McLeod 2, Kirilenko, Harpring, Bell, Snyder). Technical Fouls: None. Flagrant fouls: Bell, 2:58 second.
FG FT Reb
S.A. Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts
Bowen 42 7-15 2-2 0-2 2 2 18
Duncan 23 4-8 4-4 1-4 4 2 12
Nesterovic 32 1-3 0-0 2-4 3 4 2
Parker 33 5-15 4-4 1-2 4 3 14
Ginobili 35 7-11 14-15 0-8 7 4 31
Horry 26 2-3 3-4 2-6 0 3 7
Barry 10 0-1 2-2 1-1 1 1 2
Udrih 15 5-7 0-0 0-2 3 1 11
Brown 14 2-6 0-1 0-0 1 1 4
Massenburg 10 0-1 0-0 1-3 0 2 0
Totals 240 33-70 29-32 8-32 25 23 101
Percentages: FG .471, FT .906. Three-Point Goals: 6-17, .353 (Ginobili 3-4, Bowen 2-5, Udrih 1-2, Horry 0-1, Barry 0-1, Parker 0-2, Brown 0-2). Team Rebounds: 5. Team Turnovers: 10 (13 PTS). Blocked Shots: 10 (Nesterovic 4, Duncan 3, Horry, Barry, Udrih). Turnovers: 10 (Ginobili 3, Parker 2, Horry 2, Duncan, Nesterovic, Udrih). Steals: 5 (Nesterovic 2, Parker, Ginobili, Horry). Technical Fouls: Coach Popovich, 6:34 fourth.
Utah 20 30 22 22 -94
San Antonio 27 27 19 28 -101
A - 18,797 (18,500). T - 2:25. Officials: Marc Davis, Scott Foster, Mark Ayotte.
IN SHORT - Comeback after comeback put the Jazz in position to win, but a couple of turnovers at critical moments kept the Jazz winless in the SBC Center.
KEY MOMENT - With a chance to tie with 40 seconds left, Mehmet Okur found himself in the lane with the ball. But instead of shooting, he tried to shovel it to Andrei Kirilenko, and Robert Horry picked off the pass.
KEY STAT - Utah outscored the Spurs 84-73 with Keith McLeod in the game.
Pacers at Jazz
7 p.m., KJZZ