SAN ANTONIO — So you’re thinking, this is the year the San Antonio Spurs finally drop a level and join the NBA pack after 15-time All-Star Tim Duncan finally retired after 19 seasons and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have become another year older.
The Spurs might just be the most impressive team in the NBA so far this year, with a 4-0 record and three victories on the road, including that 29-point opening-night thumping of the mighty Golden State Warriors.
That’s what the Utah Jazz are up against Tuesday night at the AT&T Center where the two teams meet at 6:30 p.m. MT.
The Jazz are off to a slow start, coming off an 88-75 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday night in California, which dropped their season record to 1-2. The Jazz, who are playing without their leading scorer of the past three years, Gordon Hayward, have struggled offensively
The Jazz are averaging just 91.7 points per game on 43.5 percent from the field and only 30.9 percent from 3-point range.
George Hill has been the one bright spot with a 20-points-per-game average on 49-percent shooting. Joe Johnson (15.7 ppg) and Rodney Hood (15.3 ppg) both had strong openers but had off-nights against the Clippers.
As for the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard, who has been the NBA defensive player of the year the past two years, has broken out offensively this season, averaging 28.0 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and 95 percent from the free throw line.
Longtime Los Angeles Laker Pau Gasol has joined the team this year and starting at forward and is averaging 9.5 points and 7.3 rebounds
Kyle Anderson, a third-year year player out of UCLA, has been the starting two-guard this year, but only averaging 3.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
The Spurs are making 9.5 3-pointers a game and shooting 45.2 percent from 3-point range, led by reserve guard Patty Mills, who is shooting 59.1 percent on 13 of 22.
Coach Gregg Popovich is already resting players for the long grind ahead as Parker and Ginobili sat out the third game of the season, Saturday night against New Orleans, while LaMarcus Aldridge, sat out Sunday’s win over Miami, partly because of knee soreness, but “we thought we would sit him because it was a back-to-back and his fourth game in six days” said Popovich.
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz got Derrick Favors back Friday after he sat for most of the preseason with a knee issue and after playing 20 minutes Friday, played 23 Sunday against the Clippers . . . The Spurs and Jazz will meet again Friday night in Salt Lake at Vivint Arena . . . In between, the Jazz will play Dallas at home Wednesday night, while the Spurs will be off for two days in between . . . The Jazz and Spurs play later in the season, but not for more than five months, with games April 2 in San Antonio and April 12 in Salt Lake.