Jazz rally late, send reeling Spurs to 16th straight loss
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Lauri Markkanen scored 27 points and recent signee Kris Dunn added 15 as the Utah Jazz rallied from a 14-point deficit and beat the struggling San Antonio Spurs 118-102 on Saturday night.
Markkanen sealed the game with 14 points in the fourth quarter, and Walker Kessler recorded four of his five blocks in the final minutes.
“We finally had our spacing right and got good looks after that,” Markkanen said. “But it was defense that was the difference maker, just getting out in transition and running to get into a good rhythm.”
Kessler, who added 12 rebounds and nine points, was off the court when the Jazz made their first game-changing run and wanted to establish himself to help his team finish strong.
“That’s what I do. I don’t like people scoring in my paint,” Kessler said.
Dunn, playing his second game on a 10-day contract with the Jazz, was signed for his defense. He ended up being a playmaker and late-game scorer when the rest of his teammates were struggling.
“I’m an energy player. I was trying to direct the team on the offensive end and try and push the pace and get my guys easy looks,” Dunn said.
Jeremy Sochan scored 22 points, Keldon Johnson had 18 and Zach Collins added 15 for the Spurs, who lost their 16th straight game.
“We’re obviously not a 48-minute team,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Just not mature enough to understand you got to keep it up. It’s a game of consistency and execution, keeping your competitiveness up.”
In 23 minutes, Dunn went 7 for 13 from the field and had game-high eight assists and seven rebounds, all along with strong defensive play.
“The guys don’t really know me. I’ve only been here for a couple days, so playing hard and being vocal out there make it look like I know what I’m doing,” Dunn said.
Dunn hadn’t scored 15 points since Jan. 20, 2020, against Milwaukee, when he was playing with Chicago. But, he now has 26 points in two games with the Jazz, who have won three of their last four.
Utah is back at .500 (31-31) and among a logjam of teams in Western Conference playoff contention.
After a hapless first half for the Jazz, the third quarter was pivotal as Utah outscored San Antonio 30-14. The 14 points was season low for the Spurs and the lowest point total allowed by the Jazz in the quarter.
The Jazz used a 19-4 run in the third quarter to grab their first lead of the game. Jordan Clarkson made a layup with 3:30 left in the period to cap the surge and make it 78-75 in favor of Utah.
Simone Fontecchio hit a 3-pointer just before the horn and the Jazz led 85-79 entering the final period. That was bad news for the Spurs, who are 0-42 when trailing after three quarters.
The Spurs led by 14 points in the first half, at 46-32, when Johnson hit a pair of acrobatic shots around the basket.
KIND WORDS FROM THE MASTER
Utah coach Will Hardy learned the coaching profession in the Spurs organization from 2010-2019.
“He’s ridiculously intelligent and he’s a hard worker. He started out at the bottom in the film room and it was pretty apparent very quickly that he understood everything that we coaches wanted,” Popovich said.
So, the mentor is not the least surprised at Hardy’s early success with the the Jazz, who were widely predicted to be one of the league’s worst teams this year.
Spurs: The Spurs were missing a host of injured players, including Devin Vassell (knee) and Tre Jones (foot).
Jazz: Utah averages more than 14 3-pointers per game, but didn’t record their first 3 until Dunn made one with 4:16 left until halftime.
Spurs and Jazz: The teams meet again in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.
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