Wounded Spurs finish off Jazz to pick up 11th straight win
SALT LAKE CITY -- Even short-handed, the San Antonio Spurs keep finding ways to win.
On Monday night, Richard Jefferson stepped up big. He hit a 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left -- only his second field goal all night -- as the Spurs pulled out a 106-102 victory over the Utah Jazz.
It was San Antonio's 11th straight win -- the longest streak in the NBA -- and the seventh consecutive on this nine-game road trip. San Antonio (23-9) hasn't lost on the road since Jan. 29 in Dallas.
"I haven't been shooting the ball particularly well of late ... and even passed up one shot with about a minute to go," Jefferson said. "But I was blessed the  went in."
Tony Parker scored 23 points to lead the Spurs, who were without key players Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter , both expected to miss two weeks because of injury.
"When you have guys that go down, I think sometimes it helps guys refocus knowing you have less room for error," Jefferson said. "Everybody has to contribute."
Without Splitter to provide a spark off the bench, Matt Bonner came through in the clutch with five 3-pointers. He finished with 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
"Matty was great. Matty was key for us tonight," said Spurs forward Tim Duncan, who finished with 20 points. "He was able to spread the floor and hit some shots and continue to score points for us when we really needed it."
Al Jefferson scored 20 points to lead the Jazz (15-16), who fell below .500 for the first time since Jan. 2, but he couldn't get a midrange jumper to fall with 29 seconds left.
Paul Millsap added 16 for Utah and Devin Harris 15. Josh Howard, in the starting lineup because of an injury to shooting guard Raja Bell, had 12 points.
San Antonio trailed by as many as eight points in the first half and 10 in the third quarter before rallying.
"Persistence," Duncan said. "We stuck with it. They did make a [13-0] run. We came out in the second half and didn't play well for those first couple of minutes. They got themselves a lead, but we knew there was a lot of game left. It kind of shows the character of this team, how we've been playing over the last 10-15 games. We're really starting to turn that corner."
The Jazz, forced to practice Monday morning despite arriving back from Houston at 12:30 a.m., played with much more intensity than they did in a blowout loss to Houston on Sunday.
In the end, they still lost -- and have dropped seven of their past nine.
"Tough loss," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought our guys fought hard, especially after last night. We had a chance at the end. We just didn't get the plays at the end."
The Spurs led 56-53 at halftime, but the Jazz opened the second half on a 13-0 run.
The Spurs fought back, with Bonner hitting his fifth 3-pointer and making three free throws after being fouled on his next 3-point attempt.
And Parker had 11 assists to go with his 23 points.
"Tony's an All-Star," Gregg Popovich said of his veteran guard. "He had another magnificent game -- scoring, finding people, playing tough, being a leader. He was good."
The bad continues to be injuries for Ginobili.
"It's killing him," Popovich said. "He just came back, played in a couple of games and was beginning to get in shape, get a rhythm, and then he goes down again. He's pretty depressed about it. Hopefully the team can be over it and realize he and Tiago are going to be gone for a while."
Ginobili suffered a strained left oblique in Saturday's 103-100 victory at the Los Angeles Clippers. An MRI on Monday confirmed the injury to Ginobili, who had played just his fourth game since missing 22 with a broken left hand. He will remain in San Antonio for the remainder of the Spurs' road trip.
Ginobili led the Spurs against the Jazz in the first meeting with 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting.
Splitter, who had averaged 13 points off the bench in his previous five games, traveled with the team to Salt Lake City but also is out two weeks with a strained right calf.
Jazz great Karl Malone attended Monday's game just a few weeks after a very public spat with the organization and CEO Greg Miller. Afterward they met for about an hour in a closed-door session, although neither would discuss what was said.
Earlier this month, Malone went off on the organization. He said he was forced to use a scalper to buy tickets for a game and blamed the organization for coach Jerry Sloan's abrupt retirement last February, saying the Jazz had given guard Deron Williams -- now with the New Jersey Nets -- too much power. On Monday, Malone, with his son, shrugged off reporters but sat in the front row under the "home" basket next to a fan holding a colorful "Malone for President" sign. A security guard stood behind him. At halftime, Malone hugged Corbin and other members of the Jazz staff in the concourse but was signing autographs when Miller walked by. Miller looked at him and kept walking. After the game, Miller went over to Malone, and the two chatted briefly before going behind closed doors
"We talked," Malone said. "It's between us." ... Jazz SG Bell was inactive Monday after reinjuring his right adductor. It was the fourth game he missed because of the injury. The Jazz instead activated F DeMarre Carroll for the first time since signing him Feb. 8. ...The Spurs on Monday signed 6-9 rookie F Eric Dawson, a San Antonio native, to a 10-day contract. Dawson was averaging 15.9 points and 10.1 rebounds for Austin of the NBA Development League.
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