Now that Tim Duncan is playing well again, the last thing he wants to do is sit.
Duncan told teammate Tony Parker he was "very convincing" when lobbying San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich to keep him in the lineup, even if it was the Spurs' fourth game in five nights and they were facing the team with the worst record in the Western Conference.
Popovich usually rests his 37-year-old forward during stretches like this, but Duncan rewarded the club with another double-double. He had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Spurs to their fourth straight victory Saturday night, 100-84 over the Utah Jazz.
Sparked by his 23-point, 21-rebound performance against Atlanta on Dec. 2, Duncan has returned to vintage form after a slow start to the season. He is averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds over his last six games.
"The first 20 games, it's not really that hard to do much better," Duncan said. "I'm still not shooting the ball well, but I'm trying to play hard and find ways to contribute."
Kawhi Leonard added 13 points to help the Spurs (19-4) coast comfortably past the Jazz (6-20) after a big first-half run.
"We were never worried about Timmy. I've been saying (it) since the beginning of the season," said Parker, who had 15 points. "He's the last guy we ever need to worry about. But now he's getting aggressive and he's getting his shot back."
From the beginning, the Jazz pressured Parker and dared Duncan to shoot open elbow jumpers. Duncan missed his first three outside shots.
"He executed well, the shots just didn't go down. But he kept playing like he always does, so it was great," Popovich said.
Trey Burke had 20 points and Gordon Hayward scored 18 for the Jazz, who shot 39 percent from the field.
The Jazz were coming off consecutive road wins,
including a 103-93 victory Friday night in Denver. They had reached 100 points in three of the last four games but were no match for San Antonio's smothering defense.
"We didn't play with the pep we have had the last few games because of the back-to-back. But I thought the effort was there, just didn't have the same spark," coach Tyrone Corbin said.
On the other end, the Spurs set a series of picks to allow penetration and then passes for open 3-pointers. If that failed, they went to their famously fundamental post player on the block. In just 28 minutes, Duncan showed much of his repertoire with bank shots, fallaways, hooks and tip-ins.
"In the post, he's aggressive and making strong moves," said Parker, who was creative in getting Duncan the ball where he could gain confidence.
San Antonio played its fourth consecutive game without the defensive influence of starting center Tiago Splitter, who has a strained calf. The Spurs, per 100 possessions, score 14 more points than they give up when Splitter is on the floor. But they hardly missed him against the Jazz in the first of a four-game road trip for the Spurs, who are 10-2 away from home.
"They are a veteran club. They know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. They showed us," Corbin said.
On Nov. 15 in Utah, the Spurs needed a fourth-quarter rally to wipe away a seven-point deficit and win 91-82. Parker scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter of that one.
After a dreadful start when Burke was out with a broken finger, the Jazz recovered enough to split their last 10 games. The rookie point guard was hot early and gave Parker a taste of his own medicine on a series of floaters and step-back jumpers in the first half.
More than 6 minutes into the game, the Spurs had only six points. But over the remainder of the first half, they used an especially efficient offense to build a 55-40 lead at the break. The reserves, led by Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills, sparked a 21-6 run to help San Antonio gain control.
"Our job is to come off the bench and bring that extra gear to turn it up a bit, intensity-wise. It starts on defense and if we can capitalize, it translates to good offense," Mills said.
Belinelli and Manu Ginobili each had 11 points off the San Antonio bench, which contributed 47 points. The Spurs outrebounded the Jazz 55-42 and outscored Utah 50-36 in the paint.
"They hit the glass really hard and they have a lot of big bodies, so we knew that was going to be a big part of us winning this game. But we had good focus from everybody and when the balls were there to be had, we just went and got them," Duncan said.
Richard Jefferson made a 3-pointer to draw the Jazz within double digits for the only time in the second half at 61-52, but Duncan scored twice around a 3-pointer by Leonard and the Spurs were back in control.
"It was a very good win against a young team that is starting to play better. We respect them and did a good job of playing horn to horn," Duncan said.
NOTES: Utah C Rudy Gobert and G Ian Clark were assigned to the club's D-League affiliate in Bakersfield. Both earned playing time earlier this season when the Jazz were dealing with multiple injuries. ... Belinelli made all three of his 3-point attempts to improve his NBA-leading mark to 56.5 percent. ... Jeremy Evans matched his career high with 11 rebounds for Utah. . Oddly, the Jazz had a season-high 11 blocks to one for the Spurs.