San Antonio (57-16) at Utah (35-38)

Fog Currently: Salt Lake City, UT
Temp: 26° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EDT Tue Apr 4, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Though the San Antonio Spurs sit atop the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz likely would be thrilled to face them in the first round of the playoffs.

San Antonio looks to increase its lead for the conference’s top seed and deal a blow to Utah’s playoff hopes when these teams meet at the Delta Center.

The Spurs already have clinched their ninth consecutive postseason berth, and have won nine of 11 to take control of the West. They’ve built a 2 1/2 -game lead in the conference and the Southwest Division over second-place Dallas, which has gone 3-5 over the past two weeks.

If the Jazz can sneak into the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, they would likely be the No. 8 seed and have to open against the West’s top seed. Utah is 10th in the standings, trailing Sacramento by 2 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Spurs won in Utah in the only matchup between the teams this season.

San Antonio overcame a 10-point deficit Saturday with a strong fourth-quarter performance from Manu Ginobili to beat the Washington Wizards 106-99. The Spurs shooting guard had 16 of his 22 points in the final period, including his team’s last 14 points.

“I was trying to get it to the rim before, but I just couldn’t make a shot,” Ginobili said. “In the fourth quarter, I started with the dunk, and the whole game changed for me in those couple of minutes.”

Tony Parker scored 24 of his team-high 28 points after halftime and Tim Duncan fought through the flu for his fourth straight double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds. San Antonio outrebounded the Wizards 49-30 and blocked 10 shots en route to its third consecutive victory.

“It was a very good win against a very good basketball team,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, the Western Conference coach of the month for March. “Timmy was a leader and competitor. Even though he was sick as a dog, he still wanted to play. His effort and foundation in the game was really, really impressive.

“Manu was patient. He didn’t start as well as he would have liked, but he didn’t hurry and stayed with it. Tony kept us together for three quarters and ran the show in the fourth. Those three starters took us home tonight.”

The Spurs will try to win three consecutive road games for the first time in nearly two months before opening a five-game homestand during which they’ll play the Mavericks for the final time during the regular season on Friday.

The Jazz won for the third time in four games Saturday, beating the Portland Trail Blazers 102-89. Andrei Kirilenko (23 points, 13 rebounds), Carlos Boozer (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Mehmet Okur (21 points, 14 rebounds) all had double-doubles for Utah and rookie Deron Williams added 18 points.

The victory followed a disappointing 106-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday in which the Jazz allowed 55 percent shooting.

“All I’m asking for from these guys is for them to compete hard … If you like the game enough, this is what you want,” said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, whose team outrebounded the Blazers 48-30.

San Antonio had an 18-game winning streak against Utah from April 15, 2000-Nov. 27, 2004, but the teams have split their last four meetings.

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