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NBA SEASON DOWN TO THE WIRE AS SPURS HOST JAZZ

 

The San Antonio Spurs have clinched the Western Conference title, which means that they could be pacing themselves to prepare for the NBA playoffs. They’ll have one game remaining after this contest with a longtime adversary in the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are playing out the string after a disastrous season that began with a lot of promise and a strong run in the first half of the year. To say that they slumped in the second half is an understatement—the situation in Utah degenerated to the point where the only proper description is to call it an ‘utter train wreck’. 
For the Spurs, it’s ‘business as usual’ with their team built around veterans Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. If there’s any valid criticism of a team that will most likely finish with the best record in the NBA it could be their age—Duncan is very likely in his last season and Ginobili and Parker are both well into their thirties. All three have missed time during the previous month, but it’s unclear whether they were actually injured (with the exception of Duncan who had a very real ankle sprain) or whether they were just taking ‘time off’ to prepare for the postseason.
To properly detail the ups and downs of Utah’s tumultuous season might require an entire book. The season started well, with the Jazz among the best in the conference through the first few months of the season. It seemed as the team had finally rid itself of the chemistry issues caused by petulant forward Carlos Boozer, now with Chicago. It didn’t quite work out that way—as the team started to lose a new chemistry issue manifest itself in the form of All Star point guard Deron Williams. Williams had issues with head coach Jerry Sloan, which led to his stunning departure from a team that he’d coached since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. In a curious bit of timing, Williams followed him out of town as he was traded to New Jersey a week later.
Since the Sloan/Williams soap opera and the aftermath, the Jazz have tried to regroup under new head coach Tyrone Corbin. Corbin was a solid NBA player and was well thought of as an assistant, but with Sloan’s long time assistant Phil Johnson waiting in the wings had no reason to think he’d be a head coach for several years. Johnson left with Sloan, and Corbin was thrust into the head job. A makeshift team that has suffered some injuries hasn’t helped.
The Jazz have been a ‘go against’ ever since midseason, but there’s at least some semblance of a case that can be made for them here. They’ll be getting a fair amount of points facing a Spurs team with zero motivation in their remaining regular season games. To the contrary, San Antonio could rest some of their starters in preparation. Ultimately, however, we just can’t make a case for a Utah team that has lost 8 of their last 10. Look for the Spurs to win and cover, even if it’s their reserves doing the work.