Red Hot Spurs Can't Be Stopped

Considering they might open the playoffs on the road despite winning a division title, the Utah Jazz need to start showing they can consistently win away from home. There would be no better place to do it than San Antonio.

The Jazz haven't won there in more than eight years, and the red-hot Spurs have lost at home only once over the past two months heading into the finale of this season series on Friday.

Oddsmakers have made San Antonio -7.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 185 total points (View NBA Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 66% of bets for this game have been placed on Utah +7.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Utah (47-24) has won two of the three meetings, but both victories came in Salt Lake City. The Jazz have lost 15 in a row at San Antonio since Feb. 28, 1999.

While the Spurs (51-20) have won 10 of 11 at home since Jan. 24, Utah opens a four-game road trip in San Antonio having lost a season-high five straight road games.

However, the Jazz are coming off a perfect three-game homestand. The last of those victories, 108-102 over Minnesota on Wednesday, wrapped up the Northwest Division crown for Utah.

It is the team's first division title since the 1999-2000 season and first playoff berth since 2002-03.

"Being able to win the division is kind of a special thing," said Utah coach Jerry Sloan. "Sometimes you take it for granted but to me it's quite an accomplishment.

"Hopefully, we don't stop there."

The Jazz have the fourth-best record in the West, but are only 1 1/2 games ahead of a surging Rockets team which is in fifth place. If Utah ends up with the fifth-best record, it will not have home-court advantage in the first round despite winning its division.

Utah is four games behind playoff-bound San Antonio, which has won five straight and 18 of 20. Still, the Spurs are third in the conference standings and unlikely to catch Dallas for the Southwest Division crown or the West's top seed.

San Antonio overcame a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat New Orleans 92-88 on Wednesday. Tim Duncan scored 31 points and Brent Barry hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to finish with 15 points.

"It was a good win for us in the sense that we didn't play very well the first half of the game," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "We hung in there, stuck with the system and found a good combination."

Duncan, averaging 22.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in three games versus Utah this season, will be matched up against one of the league's hottest players.

Carlos Boozer has averaged 31.3 points and 14.0 rebounds during the Jazz's three-game win streak, shooting 66.1 percent (39-of-59) from the field.

Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams all had double-doubles on Wednesday, when the Jazz rallied from six down in the second half to beat Minnesota.

Utah shot at least 50 percent from the field for the third time in five games en route to its first division title since the franchise won four straight Midwest Division crowns from 1997-2000.

"It's the first time this group has done it and the first time for this organization in a few years, so we're excited about that," Boozer said. "But we have bigger fish to fry."

Okur, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds Wednesday, bounced back after totaling 33 points and 21 boards in his previous four games. The All-Star had 31 points and 11 rebounds in Utah's 97-93 win over San Antonio on Jan. 31 in the most recent meeting.

The Jazz will look to take the season series from the Spurs for the first time since 1997-98.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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