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Healthier Jazz looking for another strong performance against Spurs

Alec Burks,left,  and Rodney Hood joke around after the Jazz's first practice after the All-Star break Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Salt Lake City.
Alec Burks,left, and Rodney Hood joke around after the Jazz's first practice after the All-Star break Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Salt Lake City.
Tom Smart, Deseret News

If there's one similarity between the Utah Jazz and their opponent Monday night, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, it's that the two squads have been riddled with injuries throughout the year.

Utah's maladies on the wing have been well chronicled, as original starter Alec Burks was sidelined for the year in December after undergoing shoulder surgery, and all of the players who have been put in the lineup to spell him have missed time, too.

En route to a 34-21 record, San Antonio has certainly seen its fair share of injuries as well.

Most notably, Kawhi Leonard sustained a hand injury and has missed 18 games, while Tony Parker has missed 14 contests with a bad hamstring.

Tiago Splitter, Marco Bellinelli and Patty Mills have each missed significant time with injuries.

Those injuries have contributed to the Spurs sitting in a rather unfamiliar seventh place in the Western Conference standings heading into Monday's tilt at EnergySolutions Arena.

This year marks the earliest since 2010 that San Antonio has reached the 21-loss mark.

"It's similar to OKC in that you have two of the top teams in the league (who have dealt with injuries)," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. "It just shows you the impact injury can have. It's had an impact on us, but we're obviously not the caliber of team that they are right now."

While the Jazz and Spurs have been impacted a good deal by injury, both appear to be as healthy as they've been in quite some time.

All of the aforementioned San Antonio players have hit the floor in the team's two games since the All-Star break, and all of Utah's wings with the exception of Burks contributed to Friday's 92-76 victory against Portland.

"It's been good with myself and Elijah playing good and Joe steady doing what he's doing and of course Gordon," said rookie Rodney Hood, who played Friday for the first time since Jan. 18, against, coincidentally, the Spurs. "We've all been trying to chip in, but I think we've been the best on the defensive end trying to create havoc on that end of the floor and then we're starting to hit shots so it makes it easier for the guys like Gordon and (Derrick Favors)."

Defensive effort was certainly a highlight in Utah's victory over the Blazers, and Snyder was pleased that his team as a whole played hard on that end of the floor.

"Obviously the other night we were very good," he said. "We had a lot of energy. I think there's been a process of developing a collective mindset that this is important and something that we want to be a part of what we do. I was happy given the fact that we came back from (All-Star) break and were able to do that, where there was obviously a real focus."

That mindset is key to succeeding on defense in Hood's eyes as well.

"Continue to have that same focus that we had," he said about what the team is looking to do defensively against San Antonio. "It's a hard thing to do, but I think we're really ready for that. We're playing a different team, a Spurs team that allows you to talk, so we just gotta come in and be ready for that."

Snyder had similar sentiments.

"There's absolutes that if we don't do, probably we're not gonna be successful," he said. "One of the biggest things is just activity. I think for us, activity usually equates to good effort."

Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.

Ryan McDonald is a part-time reporter at the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @ryanwmcdonald.