Spurs-Jazz Preview

The Associated Press

Gary Neal came up clutch for the San Antonio Spurs their last time out, helping extend the league's longest active winning streak.

Neal could be asked to take on an even bigger role with Manu Ginobili back on the sidelines.

The Spurs continue a nine-game trip seeking an 11th consecutive win Monday night against the scuffling Utah Jazz.

With seven straight wins in opposing arenas, San Antonio (22-9) is two away from matching the longest road winning streak in franchise history set Jan. 16-Feb. 12, 2006. The Spurs inched closer to matching that run Saturday thanks in large part to Neal.

After committing what appeared to be an extremely costly turnover with 9.5 seconds left in regulation, Neal came up with a steal and forced overtime on a game-tying 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left. Neal later made a go-ahead 3 with 25 seconds to go in OT and the Spurs defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 103-100.

San Antonio, holding teams to 90.5 points per game during its overall winning streak, last won 11 in a row during a 12-game run Nov. 1-24, 2010.

"Sometimes you got to get lucky and we definitely got lucky," said Tim Duncan, who had 11 points and 17 rebounds versus the Clippers. "It's been a great run for us."

Saturday's win, however, came at a cost. Ginobili, playing in just his fourth game back since missing 22 with a broken left hand, had to be removed twice in the fourth quarter due to a strained left oblique. Ginobili was sent back to San Antonio for further evaluation and could be held out through the All-Star break.

"It looks like we won the battle, but it makes it tough to win the war," coach Gregg Popovich said.

Tiago Splitter, who had averaged 13.0 points off the bench over his previous five games, also remains unavailable after spraining his right calf in the first quarter Friday. Splitter, though, did travel with the team.

With Ginobili out, it's possible Neal could see an increase in minutes going forward. He finished with 17 points Saturday and has scored at least that many in three of his last five contests - during which he's made 11 of 20 (55.0 percent) from beyond the arc.

"At this level, confidence is the biggest thing you can have," Neal said. "It's good to be counted on with your teammates."

While Neal played the role of hero over the weekend, Tony Parker continued to pace the offense. Parker recorded 30 points and 10 assists Saturday and is averaging 27.1 and 8.6, respectively, in his last seven games.

Parker is averaging 22.8 points on 56.0 percent shooting in his last five visits to Utah (15-15). He had 14 points and eight assists as San Antonio posted its fourth consecutive victory over the Jazz, winning 104-89 at home Dec. 31 behind Ginobili's 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting.

Utah enters this matchup loser of six of eight after falling 101-85 at Houston on Sunday. The Jazz led by one at the break but were outscored 56-39 in the second half.

"I was very disappointed in our play and my own play," said Al Jefferson, who is expected to be fine after going to the bench with stomach pain toward the end of the game. "We have to do a better job."

Jefferson, who scored a season-high 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Friday's 114-100 win over Washington, posted 23 and 11 on Sunday. Jefferson has only been on the winning side once in 20 career matchups versus San Antonio.

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