SALT LAKE CITY — Gregg Popovich will have plenty of time to rest his Big Three again.
This time, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili won’t even have to miss any games.
The San Antonio Spurs fought off a late rally and finished off a four-game sweep of the Utah Jazz with an 87-81 victory Monday at EnergySolutions Arena.
That gives the Spurs, looking for their fifth NBA championship, a lengthy break prior to their second-round Western Conference playoff series. The Spurs will take on the winner of the ongoing Memphis Grizzlies-Los Angeles Clippers series.
Ginobili took the offensive baton from Duncan and Parker to lead top-seeded San Antonio to its fourth consecutive double-digit win over eighth-seeded Utah. The Argentine guard scored a team-high 17 points, including 10 straight during a series-clinching run that spanned the third and fourth quarters.
Utah, showing a rare burst of offensive spark, used a 10-0 run in the third quarter to trim San Antonio’s near-game-long lead to 61-58 on an Al Jefferson jumper.
Jefferson then scored the Jazz’s next basket, although it didn’t come for another eight minutes and nine seconds.
Between those two buckets, Tiago Splitter hit a free throw and Ginobili scored 10 points, including three 3-pointers.
After that 21-3 run, San Antonio went on to build a 21-point lead.
That seemed safe until the Jazz showed one last gasp, scraping and clawing back to within four points in the final minute.
Utah even had a chance to cut the Spurs’ lead down to two or one, but Parker stole the ball from Paul Millsap and passed it downcourt for an easy Ginobili layup.
The Spurs had five players in double figures and won despite shooting 37.8 percent.
Jefferson led all scorers with 26 points, but Utah shot 36.4 percent, went 0-for-13 from 3-point arc and 17-for-26 from the foul line.
Desperate times called for a desperate lineup change for the Jazz to begin Game 4.
Hoping to spark his team’s defense and somehow claw back into the one-sided series, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin inserted 6-foot-10 forward Derrick Favors into the starting lineup.
That strategy move didn’t pay off in the first half, as the Spurs took a 50-42 lead into the break.
The Jazz briefly led in the first quarter, going ahead 19-15 on a Devin Harris free throw.
The Spurs closed out the quarter on a 7-0 run, though, and kept surging well into the second quarter. Similar to San Antonio’s 20-0 run in the Game 2 rout, the Spurs produced a 21-3 surge to go ahead 36-22.
Duncan led San Antonio in the first half with 11 points, but it was the Spurs’ depth that did most of the damage. Six bench players had at least five points.
Harris topped the Jazz in the first half with 13 points, while Jefferson and Millsap each contributed 10 points. Favors added five points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Jazz continued their cold-shooting ways against the Spurs, only hitting 40.5 percent of their first-half shots.
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