||12-07-2009 02:52 AM
After their first loss in five games, the Utah Jazz are opening one their most daunting weeks of the season. The San Antonio Spurs, though, have hardly been living up to their usual billing as a tough opponent.
The Jazz, coming off one their worst games defensively, look to win their third game against the struggling Spurs this season Monday night.
Though it shot 50.0 percent, Utah (11-8) couldn't keep up with Minnesota in a 108-101 loss Saturday night. The Jazz held their previous four opponents to 93 points or fewer, but struggled against one of the NBA's worst offensive teams.
"I think we feel about as bad as you can feel," said coach Jerry Sloan, whose club allowed Minnesota to shoot 57.1 percent. "If you can't guard anybody better than that, I don't know how you can even expect to win."
Utah needs to be particularly sharp this week as it plays four games in six days. That stretch includes three matchups with last season's NBA finalists - two with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with Orlando.
"This is a pretty tough stretch for us. That's where we're at," point guard Deron Williams said. "We've had some good wins, but a lot have come against teams that don't have winning records. We have to see how we do against the top in the league."
While San Antonio (9-8) usually poses problems for most teams, it has lost its twice to Utah this season and dropped two in a row overall as it struggles to get on track.
The Spurs, however, will face a Jazz team that could be without Andrei Kirilenko (back) again. The veteran forward didn't play against the Timberwolves, and his status is uncertain.
Utah, though, might get some front court help with Kyle Korver getting close to making his season debut following knee surgery. Korver averaged 9.0 points off the bench for the Jazz last season.
San Antonio held five of its previous seven opponents to 90 points or fewer before a 106-99 defeat to Northwest Division-leading Denver on Saturday night.
It was the Spurs' second loss to a division leader in three days. San Antonio had 19 turnovers versus the Nuggets, matching its total from Thursday night's 90-83 loss to Boston, the Atlantic Division's top team.
"Way too many," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "We are a 10 or an eight (turnover team). That's when we are at our best."
San Antonio ended a month long stand in Texas. The Spurs, who went 7-5 during that stretch, will be playing their first game out of their home state since a 96-84 loss to Portland on Nov. 6.
San Antonio is 1-4 on the road, averaging 90.8 points and shooting 29.5 percent from 3-point range. Tim Duncan, though, has had two straight strong games away from the AT&T Center, averaging 21.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.0 blocks.
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