The Utah Jazz closed the regular season with a bang, following up Monday’s road win over the Warriors with a 101-97 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.
Next up is the playoffs, where the LA Clippers will be waiting. The Jazz will be the No. 5 seed and play the first two games in Los Angeles starting on Saturday night.
Gordon Hayward scored a team-high 14 points for the Jazz (51-31), while George Hill, Rudy Gobert and Shelvin Mack added 13 points each. No Utah player played more than 29 minutes, and both teams played their reserves down the stretch.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs (61-21) with 18 points, while superstar Kawhi Leonard added 14 points in the loss.
Mack came up big late, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter—including two clutch 3-pointers—to lead the Jazz to the win. He added three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 26 minutes off the bench.
The Jazz closed the first quarter on a 10-3 run that was capped by a running 32-footer at the buzzer by Rodney Hood. Hill scored four of those points, while Joe Ingles canned a corner three to give Utah some early momentum.
Utah went on another run midway through the third quarter, using a bucket by Hayward, a three-point play by Gobert and a three from the wing by Ingles to build a 16-point lead (their largest of the game).
San Antonio, though, climbed back to tie the game and eventually take the lead late in the fourth quarter, but Utah’s reserves made enough plays to pull it out in the end. Mack put in a layup, Jeff Withey threw down an alley-oop dunk and—after a four-point play by San Antonio’s Davis Bertans—Mack pulled up and drilled a three to give Utah a two-point lead. Bertans answered with another three, but Alec Burks hit nothing but net on a corner three to give Utah the lead for good. Danté Exum grabbed a steal, and then Mack and Withey hit one free throw each to ice the victory.
The Jazz shot an impressive 50.6 percent from the field against San Antonio’s physical, in-your-face defense. Hayward fought his way to a 7-for-9 shooting night despite being matchup up with Leonard, the NBA’s two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The Spurs entered the night allowing their opponents to shoot 44.3 percent (tied with the Jazz for No. 2 in the NBA).
The final score was close, but this game really wasn’t. The Jazz led for all but 102 seconds and by as many as 16 points before they pulled their starters for nearly all of the fourth quarter. With the exception of Raul Neto, who missed the game with a groin injury, both teams fielded (and played) their full rosters.
Coach’s Quote of the Night
“Both teams wanted the competition, and I think it helped us to play against a team as good as [the Spurs]. And then there’s a point when there’s other guys on the bench who will compete too. … I think the primary thing for us is to be healthy.”
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
Gobert finished the season as the NBA’s leading shot blocker (2.7 per game). … In a season marred by numerous injuries, Ingles was the only Jazz player to play in all 82 games. He also finished No. 3 in the NBA in 3-point shooting (44.1 percent). … San Antonio’s Pau Gasol had 13 points and eclipsed the 20,000 point mark for his career.
The Jazz will make their first playoff appearance in five seasons when they take on the Clippers in Los Angeles on Saturday night. The game starts at 8:30 p.m. MT and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.