Game Day: Utah Jazz at San Antonio Spurs
By KATE HEDLIN
Posted Dec 31 2011 2:11AM
The San Antonio Spurs have won two of their first three games, but they've looked rusty doing so.
The Spurs look to remain undefeated at home when they host the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
With a veteran roster including three starters age 31 or older, San Antonio's ability to sustain success during a compact schedule was a concern. After opening the season with consecutive home wins, the Spurs, playing on back-to-back nights and for the third time in four days, struggled Thursday in a 105-85 loss at Houston.
With the game getting out of hand, Tim Duncan played less than 16 minutes and all San Antonio starters were on the bench by the fourth quarter.
The Spurs shot 37.6 percent from the field - their second game already shooting less than 40 percent. Duncan - who will turn 36 later this season - is having a particularly tough start, averaging 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds. He was 1 of 8 from the field and finished with four points and one rebound Thursday after going 5 of 13 for 10 points in a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers the previous night.
"We were below where we want to be," said Manu Ginobili, who scored eight points Thursday. "In a season like this, we will have to wait and see if this might happen more often. You have to let it go and think about the next game."
The Spurs will need solid production from their bench when their aging starters tire. San Antonio ranked sixth in the NBA with 36.5 bench points per game last season, but has averaged just 29.3 from its reserves thus far in 2011-12. One key may be Gary Neal (appendectomy), who averaged 9.8 points last season but has yet to make is 2011-12 debut and is not expected back for a few more games.
The Jazz (1-2) are also dealing with a grueling early schedule, as they will be playing on a second consecutive night for the second time already and will be playing on the road for the third time in four games.
Utah played its first home game Friday and broke into the win column, defeating Philadelphia 102-99. Derrick Favors, making his first career start at center, scored a career-high 20 points while adding 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Devin Harris scored 13 of his 19 points in the second quarter, helping the Jazz come back from an early 13-point deficit.
Favors had been in line to come off the bench after getting into early foul trouble as the starting power forward in the season's first two games. However, Al Jefferson was scratched Friday with an inflamed right ankle, forcing Favors into the starting center role.
Jefferson's status for Saturday is uncertain.
"He gave us a huge lift," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said of Favors. "We know he can score some points for us, but he had some huge rebounds."
Second-year forward Gordon Hayward also gave the Jazz a lift Friday, with 15 points and two blocked shots.
"We've got a lot of work to do and we have another game (Saturday)," he said. "We can't celebrate this too long."
The Spurs and Jazz have alternated season series sweeps over the past three years. San Antonio won all three meetings in 2010-11, and Utah swept four matchups the previous season.
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