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San Antonio • What had been understood for months was formalized Saturday night, as the Jazz arrived in south Texas to face the Spurs. Across the country, in Philadelphia, the Grizzlies had trounced the 76ers, giving Memphis 17 more wins than the Jazz with only 16 games to play, mathematically eliminating Utah from the playoffs.
But with a month still to play in a season that will end with a high lottery pick, Jazz coach Ty Corbin stressed the importance of doing more than simply going through the motions, of using the final four weeks to study, practice and improve.
On Sunday night, the Spurs were more than willing to teach.
"It's amazing to watch it," Jazz forward Derrick Favors said after San Antonio had just beaten his team 122-104 at the AT&T Center. "And it's something we can learn from."
Going up against Tiago Splitter and future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, Favors was Utah's prized pupil, though in a fourth defeat against the Spurs this year. The forward scored a career-high 28 points shooting, while grabbing 10 rebounds and recording three steals and an assist.
In four games against the Spurs this season, Favors has averaged 18.25 points and 11.75 boards.
"It's an honor to play against a guy like Tim Duncan, so I just go out there and play as hard as I can," he said of his performances.
The loss, Utah's ninth in 10 tries with road games against playoff hopefuls Houston and Memphis up next, dropped the Jazz to 22-45 on the season.
And afterward, Corbin and his players heaped praise on their competition.
"Our guys competed," the coach said. "They're just better at what they do at this stage."
"That's a team a lot of teams in the NBA try to emulate," said Jazz guard Gordon Hayward.
Seven Spurs finished in double figures, led by Manu Ginobili's 21, Tony Parker's 18 and Duncan's 16. The Spurs assisted on 31 of their 49 baskets and they shot a season-high 62.8 percent from the floor.
The Jazz fed Favors early and often.
Midway through the second, Corbin barked at his point guard to find the big man in the post and Favors answered with a quick move on Splitter and a bucket to tie the game at 38. Favors emptied his arsenal, hitting on 12 of 19 shots.
"It's just things I've been working on last summer," he said. "Just different ways to get my shot off. It's nice to see it paying off."
At that point, with the game tied, the Jazz felt like they were rolling.
"We thought we had them there for a minute," Favors said.
But the Spurs had other plans.
After a timeout by coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs went on a 9-2 run and never trailed the rest of the game. It was San Antonio's 10th straight win and its 50th win of the season.
Hayward had 17 points, six rebounds and six assists on the night, though he also had six turnovers.
Trey Burke added 13 points and five assists, while guard Alec Burks had 12 points off the bench.
The Jazz got within five points with about five minutes to play in the third, but the Spurs closed on a 17-7 run thanks in part to their 3-point shooting. San Antonio hit 10 of its 16 attempts from beyond the arc.