ORLANDO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – With Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and Royce O’Neale nursing minor injuries, and Rudy Gobert being held out for rest, Quin Snyder gave his young guns a chance to play, and they almost pulled out a win over the San Antonio Spurs.
Derrick White scored 24 points, former Utes star Jakob Poelti added 19 points and 10 rebounds, as the Spurs got a much-needed 119-111 win over the short-handed Jazz on Friday.
“Well, they just competed,” head coach Quin Snyder said about his young players. “That’s kind of our expectation for our whole group and whoever’s on the floor. That’s what they expect of each other.”
Poeltl came within one point of his career high, which he set last year against the Jazz.
”I was a little more aggressive,” said Poeltl. ”We knew they were going to stay out with our shooters, so there was a little more room in the paint for me to move around. So I got going early today.”
Jordan Clarkson scored 24 points off the bench for Utah, while Joe Ingles added 14 without playing in the second half. But it was the Jazz youth that finished the game in the fourth quarter, and almost pulled off the upset.
Tony Bradley scored 15 points, while rookie Miye Oni added 14 as Utah made 16 of 37 shots from 3-point range in falling to 43-26 on the season.
Playing meaningful minutes for the young players who do not see much time in the normal rotation was valuable for the Jazz.
“You know, we’ve been evaluating them for a while,” Snyder said. T”hat’s why they’re on our roster. That’s why we’re working with them. That’s why they’re competing. Often times, two or three minutes is all you get, even if that’s two or three minutes at the end of a game, to not only compete and defend, but to play the right way, and I think that’s what we saw from those guys tonight.”
Lonnie Walker and Rudy Gay both finished with 14 points for the Spurs, who moved into sole possession of 10th place in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of surging Phoenix. The Suns are 4-0 since the NBA restart, but were idle Friday.
San Antonio got a huge lift in the third quarter from the 33-year-old Gay, who scored 10 points during one stretch to help open a 16-point lead.
Bradley made 7 of 9 shots from the field, recording a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Jarrell Brantely and Justin Wright-Foreman both finished with 8 points, while Emmanuel Mudiay got the start at point guard and scored 14 points.
Gobert (rest), Mitchell (left peroneal strain), Conley (right knee soreness), O’Neale (right calf soreness) did not play for the Jazz, but could all return Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.
Oni, Brantley and Wright-Foreman all set NBA career highs in points.
The Jazz fell a half-game behind Houston in the battle for fourth place in the West. The Rockets played the Lakers on Friday night.
Juwan Morgan had 4 points and 5 rebounds, but injured his right knee after hauling in an offensive rebound with 2:32 left and was taken to the locker room.
Utah shot 41.8 percent from the field.
The Jazz will take on Denver Saturday at 1:00 p.m.