Western Conference Playoffs: Round 1
Utah Jazz 91 @ San Antonio Spurs 106
Series: Jazz 0 - Spurs 1
The Utah Jazz played in their first playoff game in the Tyrone Corbin era, and had the unenviable task of starting it off on the road, against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs went 28-5 at home, and the Jazz went 12-21 on the road. You know, if you wanted to compound that to the fact that the Spurs are the #1 seed, and full of playoff tested vets while we are not. The outcome of this game was not a surprise. What was a surprise to me was all the flashes the Jazz showed tonight. Some were flashes of ineptitude. Some were flashes of indecision. Yet still others were flashes of insanity. That said, I saw quite a number of flashes of improvement, encouragement, and flashes of our brilliant future. I could not help smiling at the end of the game when I was looking over my notes.
We lost *this* game, but at the rate we are getting better at -- we're probably not going to be losing many games when it's our turn in 2014's NBA playoffs.
Speaking about waiting their turn, we got the return of Josh Howard to the starting lineup. He was an immediate force in this game and all of his success against the Spurs showed. He knew exactly what he was doing and getting whatever he wanted out there. He hustled hard, and got a number of boards. The one thing head coach Tyrone Corbin forgot to do when dealing with his mercurial star was tell him that "Yes, you're starting again; but we're not stealth tanking anymore." Chalk that one up to a communication error.
Jokes aside, did you see how decisive Al Jefferson was in the post? Sure, his defense isn't his strong suit, but he was pretty much getting what he wanted when we were able to get him the ball. He was also dropping off nice dimes and finding the rest of his team. He did only get to the free throw line once, but we know the Spurs never foul, so that's okay. He finished the game with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. His game is not glamorous, but this loss isn't on him. This was his first playoff game since he was a member of the Boston Celtic. He's battled long and hard to get back to this spot -- the playoffs -- and he didn't toil for years just to play poorly. On offense he did his part.
Paul Millsap started off slow, and missed some shots this game that we've seen him make all season long; that said, he still finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He played both forward spots and was not depredated upon, on defense. We know he's a playoff performer who has fought through battles before. He remembers that Western Conference Finals series against the Spurs. He's showing up this series, and did today. I do expect the Jazz to work on their entry passes a bit more to make sure these two guys get the ball. The Spurs length was quite disruptive in this regard. And as a team, the Spurs ended up with 10 steals, while their season average was 7.4 steals a game. That's way too many. We don't need to make an already good defensive club into a lock down defensive club.
For the rest of this "quick" recap click on below.
Devin Harris should be the next guy that should have had a break out game, and it really looked like it at the start. His defense on Tony Parker in the first quarter was great. He was shadowing him all over the court, slowing him down, following him through screens, and making life tough for him. On the other side of the ball Harris was going to the rim. Then Harris got tired and Tony took over. It's hard to point fingers, the whole team has to stop Tony Parker. Because he plays point guard, it will start with Devin. I expect him to shoot better next game, he only shot 33% and made ONLY one three. But see how far along he has come this season -- we would have held a parade for him if he was having a "bad game" like this, back in December. The team needs to help him stop Tony somehow. Otherwise at the end of each game Harris' shot is always going to be off because he's dead tired.
The main reasons why I had so many things to smile about in this game are the main reasons why I'm so high on our Jazz future: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Alec Burks. Hayward went 12/12 from the free throw line in this game. Despite not having the best boxscore line he was working all game long. He still finished with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. He was a key component of our transition counter-attack. It's going to be a quick series if we just let San Antonio set up their defense against us each time down the floor -- we're going to have to get some easy baskets in these games. Hayward pushed it and tried to get us some. He drew a lot of fouls, more than all the other starters put together, and made all of his shots. This is money time. The playoffs. And he is really showing everyone (if you weren't previously paying attention) that he's a big time player. I don't think I felt like this before about him, I was high on him, but I think down the line he could be a Top 15 NBA player. Just as long as the Jazz continue to cultivate what they have in him.
Derrick Favors. Beast. He hustled. Got rebounds, got blocks, got to the line, made shots. While he only fished with 7 and 8 off the bench, let's not forget that the guys ahead of him on the depth chart finished with 36 and 18. As a group, our bigs were putting in work. (9 offensive rebounds just for them) And Favors was showing us all just the tip of the ice berg. First of all, he was making jumpers. Then he was finishing inside on post ups. And doing all the other crazy things I already mentioned. He also added 2 blocks and 1 assist to his tally. HE IS ONLY 20 YEARS OLD. And he played half the game.
Alec Burks played even less . . . but he is going to end up being very special. He had 6 points on 2 shots. He got to the line 5 times in 11 minutes of action. Thank God Raja wasn't there to take his 11 minutes away. Kanter had a rough game, but when he calmed down in garbage time he was able to show some of his potential as well. He wants the ball, and wants to score in the paint. He has a long way to go though.
Also . . . can we just keep starting DeMarre Carroll please? Half of Josh Howard's rebounds were off of his own misses. Carroll can make a three, and does all the other hustle things you want. And a shout out to Jamaal Tinsley -- you lead the team in assists in 20 minutes of action. This tells us a lot of things. I'm not going to spell them out though. Jamaal also made all his free throws and a three. We would have looked so much worse without him.
The Spurs were just too much. Tony Parker finished with 28 points and got into the lane all day long (and not just off of the same way, he'd get lead passes into the lane, he'd get picks, or he'd just beat his man off the dribble -- he had a sick cross over in the 3rd quarter). Parker also had 8 assists. That's a very high USG% + AST% rate.
Tim Duncan showed some life into his old man game, his 17 isn't quite the 50 Karl put up, but Tim did his part, as a highly functioning, smart part of this team. He had 5 dimes, and 2 steals to go with his 50 fg% and 11 rebounds. Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson came off the bench to torch the Jazz for 21 points. Matt Bonner did his thing (3/4 from the line). We expected nothing less of him.
This was a surprisingly close game in the first half, but the Spurs went into "okay, playoffs. now." mode in the second half and easily dispatched us. That's fine. They were supposed to do just that. They weren't supposed to be only leading the Jazz by 6 in the 3rd, and only by 8 during parts of the 4th either. We're not a championship level team right now.
But we played on a Champions home court and did not back down. The game got away from the Jazz at the end -- but considering how it started with back to back Josh Howard "selfish ball" bricks -- it's a testament to our players that we only lost by 15. Similar to how it's a testament to our team that went 4-11 in February and were in 12th place in the West that we're in the playoffs today.
Keep getting better. I know you will.