SAN ANTONIO – Talen Horton-Tucker scored a career-high 41 points and the Utah Jazz defeated the Spurs 128-117 on Wednesday night in what could have been coach Gregg Popovich’s final home game in San Antonio.
Utah snapped a four-game skid to keep its fading playoff hopes alive in its first season under Will Hardy, who served five seasons under Popovich as an assistant coach.
“I’m probably not the right person to ask and, at this point, I’m not sure he’s the right person to ask either,” Hardy said about Popovich’s possible retirement.
Popovich has given no indication that he is retiring or even that he will return for his 28th season. The annual speculation has intensified, though, especially since the 74-year-old coach allowed his expected induction this summer into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame after years of refusing to even be nominated.
The Spurs have two home games remaining, but those will be played 73 miles away in Austin’s new Moody Center.
“It’s something that is real, but I try not to think about it too much,” Spurs point guard Tre Jones said. “I feel like he has time left, for sure, coaching. I don’t see him stopping anytime soon, but honestly, nobody really knows. Obviously, I hope he will be back coaching us next year.”
Popovich has overseen a young roster that has struggled with injuries, consistency, and defense — and that continued against Utah.
San Antonio (19-57) lost its fifth straight in its worst season since 1997, the year it drafted Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick.
Rookie Malaki Branham led San Antonio with 21 points. Jones, Sandro Mamukelashvili and Devonte’ Graham each added 17.
The Jazz were without Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gay, while the Spurs were without starters Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Devin Vassell.
“It’s pretty much been like that all year, so we’re kind of used to it,” Popovich said. “As long as they’re giving effort, they’re all learning. They’re making mistakes, but overall, that’s what we’re trying to do. No matter who’s out, no matter who’s not playing, other guys are happy to get minutes.
"So, trying to get to learn how to play is what this is all about.”
Horton-Tucker responded by shooting 15 for 25 from the field, including 6 for 11 on 3-pointers.
“Just trying to get out in transition and get easy buckets,” Horton-Tucker said. “Usually when we have Lauri or JC (Clarkson) playing, (I’m) hitting them early in transition, getting them baskets. But, also for me, getting downhill early in the clock is something I feel is hard to guard for certain teams.”
Kris Dunn added 17 points and Udoka Azubuike had 12 points, both off the bench for the Jazz.
Utah remains in 12th place in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Dallas for 11th and 1 1/2 games behind Oklahoma City for the final berth in the play-in tournament.
Jazz: Former Spurs first-round pick Luka Samanic had nine points and nine rebounds in his first NBA game since May 12, 2021. Utah recently signed Samanic to a 10-day contract.
Spurs: Veterans Doug McDermott and Gorgui Dieng were both active but did not play as Popovich opted to give his younger players extended minutes.
While Johnson and Sochan did not play, the team’s starting forwards addressed the crowd before the game during the Spurs’ Fan Appreciation Night.
After thanking Spurs fans for their support, Sochan said: “And any Utah fans here, you’re about to lose tonight. Go Spurs, go!”
The Spurs joked about Sochan's bold words after the game.
“I don’t think we should ever do that again,” Jones said, laughing. “When he mentioned the other team, I was like ‘Oh, God. Where is this going?’"
Jazz: At Boston on Friday.
Spurs: At Golden State on Friday.
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