SAN ANTONIO (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz had a little bit of a Christmas hangover at the start of Monday’s game against San Antonio. They finished strong, but came up just short against the Spurs.
Devin Vassell had 24 points, Keldon Johnson added 21 points as the Spurs fended off the Utah Jazz in the final minutes for a 126-122 victory Monday night.
The Spurs led by as many as 20 in the second half, and led 119-105 with three minutes remaining. The Jazz scored seven points in 33 seconds, but they could not complete the rally.
Lauri Markkanen had 32 points and Jordan Clarkson added 25 points for Utah, which had won two straight.
Clarkson’s 3-pointer pulled Utah within 123-120 with 30.1 seconds remaining but Tre Jones tossed in a floater 23 seconds later to seal the victory.
“I will always credit our team’s resilience,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “It was another example of we just won’t go away. But it’s hard to come back from down 20. You expend a lot of energy to get back, and then you have to be perfect at the end. You don’t leave yourself much margin for error when you start down 20.”
Jones had 11 points and former Runnin’ Utes star Jakob Poeltl added 16 points for San Antonio.
Mike Conley made 5-of-7 three-pointers and finished with 17 points for the Jazz. Collin Sexton and Malik Beasley each scored 13 points off the bench.
“These games are always tough going on the road after a holiday,” Conley said. “We knew we were going to have to match their energy and output early, but give them credit. They kept pushing and getting to the rim.”
The game started 40 minutes later than scheduled due to what the Spurs termed “a potential security threat, which has impacted fans entering the AT&T Center.”
The delay along with a weekend holiday break for both teams likely contributed to a sluggish start that resulted in a combined 19 points in the opening six minutes.
Slow starts have plagued the Spurs this season, but they rallied to build a 12-point lead in the first half. San Antonio shot 56 percent from the field in the first half with Johnson scoring 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
Utah coach Will Hardy spent 11 seasons with San Antonio, working his way up from an intern to a lead assistant under Gregg Popovich. Hardy said one of the biggest lessons imparted by Popovich was “competing every single day.”
Hardy discovered that first-hand in his initial matchup with his mentor.
The Jazz next play at Golden State Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m.