Don't look now, but the Spurs are red hot

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Don't look now, but the Spurs are red hot

From Comcast SportsNet SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Even shorthanded, the San Antonio Spurs keep finding ways to win. On Monday night, Richard Jefferson stepped up big. He hit a 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left -- only his second field goal all night -- as the Spurs pulled out a 106-102 victory over the Utah Jazz. It was San Antonio's 11th straight win -- the longest streak in the NBA -- and the seventh consecutive on this nine-game road trip. San Antonio (23-9) hasn't lost on the road since Jan. 29 in Dallas. "I haven't been shooting the ball particularly well of late ... and even passed up one shot with about a minute to go," Richard Jefferson said. "But I was blessed the (3) went in." Tony Parker scored 23 points to lead the Spurs, who were without key players Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter , both expected to miss two weeks because of injury. "When you have guys that go down, I think sometimes it helps guys re-focus knowing you have less room for error," Jefferson said. "Everybody has to contribute." Without Splitter to provide a spark off the bench, Matt Bonner came through in the clutch with five 3-pointers. He finished with 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting. "Matty was great. Matty was key for us tonight," said Spurs forward Tim Duncan, who finished with 20 points. "He was able to spread the floor and hit some shots and continue to score points for us when we really needed it." Al Jefferson scored 20 points to lead the Jazz (15-16), who fell below .500 for the first time since Jan. 2, but he couldn't get a mid-range jumper to fall with 29 seconds left. Paul Millsap added 16 for Utah, and Devin Harris 15. Josh Howard, in the starting lineup because of an injury to shooting guard Raja Bell, had 12 points. San Antonio trailed by as many as eight points in the first half and 10 in the third quarter before rallying. "Persistence," Duncan said. "We stuck with it. They did make a (13-0) run. We came out in the second half and didn't play well for those first couple of minutes. They got themselves a lead, but we knew there was a lot of game left. It kind of shows the character of this team, how we've been playing over the last 10-15 games. We're really starting to turn that corner." The Jazz, forced to practice Monday morning despite arriving back from Houston at 12:30 a.m., played with much more intensity than they did in a blowout loss to Houston on Sunday. In the end, they still lost -- and have dropped seven of their past nine. "Tough loss," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought our guys fought hard, especially after last night. We had a chance at the end. We just didn't get the plays at the end." The Spurs led 56-53 at halftime, but the Jazz opened the second half on a 13-0 run. The Spurs fought back, with Bonner hitting his fifth 3-pointer and making three free throws after being fouled on his next 3-point attempt. And Parker had 11 assists to go with his 23 points. "Tony's an All-Star," Gregg Popovich said of his veteran guard. "He had another magnificent game -- scoring, finding people, playing tough, being a leader. He was good." The bad continues to be injuries for Ginobili. "It's killing him," Popovich said. "He just came back, played in a couple of games and was beginning to get in shape, get a rhythm and then he goes down again. He's pretty depressed about it. Hopefully the team can be over it and realize he and Tiago (Splitter) are going to gone for a while." Ginobili suffered a strained left oblique in Saturday's 103-100 victory at the Los Angeles Clippers. An MRI on Monday confirmed the injury to Ginobili, who had played just his fourth game since missing 22 with a broken left hand. He will remain in San Antonio for the remainder of the Spurs' road trip. Ginobili led the Spurs against the Jazz in the first meeting with 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting. Splitter, who had averaged 13 points off the bench in his previous five games, traveled with the team to Salt Lake City but also is out two weeks with a strained right calf. NOTES: Jazz great Karl Malone attended Monday's game just a few weeks after a very public spat with the organization and CEO Greg Miller. Afterward they met for about an hour in a closed-door session, though neither would discuss what was said. Earlier this month, Malone went off on the organization. He said he was forced to use a scalper to buy tickets for a game and also blamed the organization for coach Jerry Sloan's abrupt retirement last February, saying the Jazz had given guard Deron Williams -- now with the New Jersey Nets -- too much power. On Monday, Malone, with his son, shrugged off reporters but sat in the front row under the "home" basket next to a fan holding a colorful "Malone for President" sign. A security guard stood behind him. At halftime, Malone hugged coach Corbin and other members of the Jazz staff in the concourse, but was signing autographs when Miller walked by. Miller looked at him, and kept walking. After the game, Miller went over to Malone and the two chatted briefly before going behind closed doors "We talked," Malone said. "It's between us." ... Jazz SG Bell was inactive Monday after re-injuring his right adductor. It was the fourth game he missed because of the injury. The Jazz instead activated F DeMarre Carroll for the first time since signing him Feb. 8. ...The Spurs on Monday signed 6-9 rookie F Eric Dawson, a San Antonio native, to a 10-day contract. Dawson was averaging 15.9 points and 10.1 rebounds for Austin of the NBA Development League.

Pau Gasol's lofty praise for Warriors: 'In all my years in the league...'

Pau Gasol's lofty praise for Warriors: 'In all my years in the league...'

The Warriors are NBA Finals bound for the third straight year.

Following their Game 4 victory over the Spurs on Monday night, Pau Gasol opened up about the Western Conference champions.

“They’re in a groove,” Gasol told Courtney Cronin of the Bay Area News Group. “They know what it takes to win and obviously they’ve been champions, they’ve established records that have never been set before and they’re on a path to get another championship.

"In all my years in the league, they’re playing at the highest level right now.”

Gasol entered the NBA as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2001 draft.

He won championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.

The Warriors are the first team in NBA history to enter the Finals with a record of 12-0.

Their average margin of victory in the playoffs is 16.3 points.

Giants notes: Blach shows resiliency; another option in center?

Giants notes: Blach shows resiliency; another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.