SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—After an impressive first quarter, San Antonio’s lead in the Western Conference playoff race looked pretty safe.
It was still safe by the end Tuesday, but only after the Spurs survived a few anxious moments while holding off the Utah Jazz 95-86. The Spurs let a 24-point lead slip to five in the final few minutes before finally putting away the Jazz.
Dallas had already won against Sacramento, so the Spurs needed a victory to keep a 2 1/2 -game lead over the Mavericks for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. And with a 24-point lead and the Spurs cruising through the second quarter, San Antonio’s fourth straight win turned out to be a thriller instead of a blowout.
“They got really close. It could have gone for them, but we had a couple of great plays down the stretch,” said Manu Ginobili, who scored 26 points.
San Antonio led by 24 in the second quarter and 18 at halftime, but had to stave off several rallies by the Jazz as Utah tightened up defensively to make up for the ugly start.
“When you play against the zone, everybody is going to get some shots. And in the fourth quarter, we finally made some,” Parker said.
San Antonio (58-16) kept its margin over Dallas, which beat Sacramento 127-101 Tuesday in a game that really could have helped Utah’s playoff hopes. Instead, the Jazz started and ended the night 2 1/2 games behind the Kings for the No. 8 spot in the West.
“It’s frustrating, knowing that we are right there,” Deron Williams said. “It’s just frustrating. But we’re still not out of it.”
San Antonio shot 73 percent and scored 37 in the first quarter, and shot just well enough the final three periods to improve to 2-0 against the Jazz this season.
The Spurs made 12 of 23 3-pointers, the last a key 3 from Bruce Bowen in the corner with 1:01 left. Bowen had just missed from about the same spot in the corner with the shot clock winding down, but Robert Horry pulled down the offensive rebound.
Bowen’s only points of the game put the Spurs ahead 93-84 and Ginobili added two free throws in the final minute to help San Antonio survive.
“We’ve got a bunch of unselfish guys that don’t really care who gets it done,” Duncan said.
The Spurs made 16 of 22 shots in the first and led 37-21 after one. The Spurs held Utah to 11 points in the second, but the Jazz slowly rallied in the third quarter and had a chance at the end.
Williams made a 3-pointer to start an 11-3 run that got the Jazz within five. Williams also dropped his shoulder and drove on Parker for a layup, then fed Boozer with a pass in the lane for a two-handed dunk that cut San Antonio’s lead to 87-82.
Duncan added a free throw and Ginobili scored two from the line before Andrei Kirilenko’s tip-in got the Jazz within 90-84. Utah still had time to catch the Spurs, but Horry’s rebound and Bowen’s 3-pointer just about ended it.
“They’re a good team. They sort of destroy your will to want to play,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “But we did fight back and I think that’s tremendous on our part.”
Kirilenko had 13 points and eight rebounds. … Williams scored 14 for Utah. … San Antonio was just 6-for-19 in the third quarter. … Official Joe Forte called technicals on Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur and Horry on three different possessions in the third quarter. San Antonio’s Nazr Mohammed was called for a flagrant foul when he took Jarron Collins down in the lane a few minutes later.