After suffering their worst home loss in nearly 11 years, starting a lengthy road trip may not be the worst thing for the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
Paying a visit to Utah, however, hasn’t turned out well for anyone lately.
The Jazz (26-18) look for their fifth win in a row overall and ninth straight at home on Monday when they host the Spurs.
San Antonio (28-14) has one of the NBA’s best home records at 20-5, but is coming off a 102-78 loss to New Orleans at the AT&T Center on Saturday. It was the Spurs’ worst home defeat since falling to Toronto 125-92 on Feb. 19, 1997— four months before they selected Tim Duncan first overall in the NBA draft.
One of the few teams to have a better winning percentage at home is Utah, which is 18-3 at EnergySolutions Arena.
But the Jazz have been far from a dominant road team, going just 8-15 away from Salt Lake City. Still, Utah won back-to-back road games for the first time since mid-November after beating Houston 97-89 on Sunday.
Three players had 17 points each for Utah, including Kyle Korver, who scored his most points in a Jazz uniform since being acquired from Philadelphia on Dec. 29.
“It took me a couple of games to get the feel for the offense,” said Korver, who has reached double figures in eight of 12 games with Utah. “It’s different than what I was used to in Philly. Here, I feel like on every play, there is an opportunity for you to get the ball and score.”
Since Korver’s arrival, the Jazz are 10-2 and are tied with Portland for second in the Northwest Division, one-half game behind Denver.
Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko also had 17 in the win over the Rockets, and Carlos Boozer finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Despite his off night on offense, Boozer remains among the league’s top 10 with 22.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
Boozer scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in Utah’s first meeting with San Antonio this season, a 104-98 loss on Dec. 7. In that game, the Spurs were without Duncan, who had a sprained ankle, but got 37 points from Manu Ginobili.
San Antonio’s offense sputtered in their loss to the Hornets. No Spurs player scored more than 17 and they shot just 41.8 percent from the field, scoring only 51 points after the first quarter.
“We hung for a half and then we lost our juice, we just didn’t have anything left and that was due to their great play,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “It was mentally debilitating after awhile.”
The Spurs have lost two of their past three home games, but things haven’t gone well on the road for them all season. San Antonio, which went 56-26 away from home the past two seasons, is just 8-9 on the road in 2007-08.
This game begins the annual rodeo trip for the Spurs. They will play nine straight on the road, including stops in Boston and Cleveland before returning home on Feb. 19 against Charlotte.
“We’ll have fewer distractions then when we’re at home,” Popovich said. “So we try to use it in that regard and hope we really nail down the way we want to play.”