Injuries continue to impact Spurs, Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY -- Staying healthy has been a huge problem for multiple NBA teams this season. The San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz are right at the top of that list.
Heading into their first clash of the season Thursday night, the injury bug has decimated both teams. San Antonio and Utah have had to deal with seeing top players sidelined for long stretches.
The Spurs (22-10) have seen limited action from Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker this season. Both sat out of San Antonio's 93-91 victory over Portland on Wednesday. Leonard and Parker missed a combined 46 games to start the season because of serious quadriceps injuries.
"We don't have everybody and we have a lot of guys in minute restrictions, stuff like that," Parker said following Monday's 109-91 win over the Clippers. "Other teams are coming at us, so we have to do the same thing. We just have to respect them. Everybody can play in the NBA."
For the Jazz, knee injuries have shelved Rudy Gobert for a total of 14 games to this point. Utah (14-18) also had its No. 2 scorer Rodney Hood, who is averaging 17.6 points per contest, miss nine games with calf and ankle problems.
Donovan Mitchell became the latest injury bug victim. The Jazz rookie did not play in Wednesday's 107-79 loss to Oklahoma City after suffering a right big toe contusion. He leads the Jazz -- and all rookies -- with 17.7 points per game. Utah's offense floundered without Mitchell in the lineup.
The Jazz scored only nine first-quarter points against the Thunder and never really recovered. They shot a dismal 35.6 percent from the floor en route to their seventh loss in eight games. Utah totaled 19 turnovers against Oklahoma City.
"Can't turn the ball over like that and win," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "It's that simple. There is a mindset that you have to have to just be tougher with the ball and be more sure."
San Antonio hasn't experienced the same trouble staying afloat through major injuries. The Spurs are winners in 11 of their last 14 games and bring a three-game winning streak into Salt Lake City.
LaMarcus Aldridge has been doing the heavy lifting on offense. The veteran forward has averaged 20.6 points per game in December. San Antonio is also getting a lift from multiple role players as they have been forced to take on bigger roles.
With stars such as Parker and Leonard under injury management, San Antonio's current three-game road trip represents a chance for different players to step forward and make a greater impact than usual. The Spurs are angling to see improvement across the board as they head to Utah.
"We're going to have a back-to-back, so there's going to be opportunities for everybody to play heavy minutes and feel good about themselves," Manu Ginobili told reporters Monday.
Utah and San Antonio split their four-game series last season. The Jazz beat the Spurs in the most recent matchup 101-97 in Salt Lake City on April 12.
Updated December 21, 2017