Amar called it:
I expect our team to experience that "virginal playoff shell shock" for one game, all teams that make the jump from the lottery to the playoffs have to have that game. It may be Game 1 or Game 2 depending on how hard to Spurs want to take it at the Jazz.
Knowing that it was coming didn't make it any easier to handle. And it's worse when it's NOT the team's best players that are destroying you. It's one thing when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili destroy you. It's another thing altogether when it's Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Boris Diaw.
But you know what? That's the Spurs. That's why Popovich won his 2nd Coach of the Year award this year (should have been probably his 10th or so).
Despite the disgusting loss, the Magical Four, our Players of the Future, the Kids (whatever you want to call them) showed us, again, why the team's future is bright—provided KOC and Ty can accept that they are actually good players and worth building around. Here's their blurbs from Salt City Hoops:
Hayward - Grade: C
Gordon Hayward was the only one trying to get his team involved. The results obviously weren’t that moving, but at least he tried. His shot wasn’t falling, just like everyone else.
Favors - Grade: B
His +/- was +6 in a game the Jazz. Plus/minus differentials aren’t too incriminating, but in this case, that means that something went terribly wrong in the rotations.
Burks - Grade B-
Burks is cocky, and he was the one playing with the most pride late in the game- he was trying to catch the Spurs playing sloppy and was still running the floor even in the last couple of minutes. He’s the only reason the deficit was less than 40.
Kanter - Grade: B
Did anyone predict that ESPN’s box score would list Enes Kanter as Utah’s top performer in the second game of the playoffs? I don’t believe that anyone did. The most backhanded compliment I can offer to the Jazz as a whole is this: Kanter earned it.
Obviously they didn't provide enough to keep the even remotely close. But they still gave us something. I'm still trying to figure out how Hayward managed 4 assists. I'm blown away that Favors actually had a positive +/-.
Everyone called this series a learning experience for the our team. And that was even before last night. Because I'm a teacher, I sadly know that just because a lesson is presented doesn't mean the stuff is learned. So I hope our team is actually learning something. Because we're witnessing the best of the best.
More specifically, I hope KOC and Ty Corbin can learn this:
What happens when you give young, talented players lots of playing time in the regular season, when you actually let them star and play as the focal point of the team on occasion, when you let them make mistakes, learn from them, and use playing time to help them improve?
The players progress rapidly to the point they are capable of acting as the main guy for a #1 seed playoff team.
There's not one scrap of evidence Kawhi is more talented than Alec Burks. They were both picked in the same range. They were both expected to be picked within the same range. And from what I've seen Alec Burks actually has more potential. And I'm not even getting into Leonard vs. Derrick Favors.
Yet it's Kawhi Leonard starting and leading the Spurs in scoring in game 2. Think about that again: starting and leading the best freaking team in the league in scoring in a playoff game!
Isn't that what KOC would call "establishing a losing culture?"
The good news: there have been playoff massacres before. The Jazz had their horrible 96-54 loss in the 98 Finals. The Celtics slaughtered the Lakers in 1985's Memorial Day Massacre, yet the Lakers took the championship. We could go on.
For whatever it's worth, I expect the Jazz to come back and play harder and better. I don't expect them to miraculously win the series like Magic's Lakers (who were helped by Bird injuring his hand in a bar fight). But they'll put up a better showing in games 3 and beyond.
Let's hope these better showings are good enough to at least win a game.