“He’s the reason we’ve been successful thus far this season. He continued that tonight. He’s had a wonderful year. He’s been very focused and did another good job, as you saw,” San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after his all-star guard Tony Parker zipped through the Utah Jazz defense on his way to 28 points.
Parker continued his regular season dominance in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs and the MVP chants eventually returned from the sellout crowd that witnessed Parker’s Spurs blow out the Jazz 106-91.
While many compared the Jazz to last season’s Memphis Grizzlies, it was clear that wasn’t the case early on. While the Jazz had an early five-point lead in the first quarter, it was only a matter of time when the Spurs would bounce back. After Manu Ginobili entered the game for Danny Green with 6:30 remaining in the first and Stephen Jackson came in shortly after, the Spurs went on an 8-0 run to take the lead for the remainder of the game.
The Jazz struggled defending the pick & roll all game as they have during the season, and against Parker, that’s the equivalent of writing your own obituary. Parker got rolling in the second quarter. When he wasn’t scoring on circus shots, Parker got to the line, all for 12 second quarter points.
“I was trying to be aggressive and I wanted to see what they were going to do in the pick- and-rolls,” Parker said. “I was trying to set up my teammates and be aggressive after that.”
Before the game, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin made a lineup change, starting Josh Howard, while Popovich made his own pre-game adjustment, inserting Parker’s French teammate Boris Diaw into the starting lineup in place of DeJuan Blair.
While it was a risky move going smaller against Utah’s big lineup, Diaw played well in his starting role, scoring nine points to go along with five rebounds. Howard didn’t work out quite as well for Corbin. In 16 minutes, Howard went 0 of 4 from the field.
There was some talk leading up to today’s season opener that Corbin would use his big lineup, featuring Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors. Corbin had some success in the second half with the matchup, going on a 6-0 run, but the Spurs countered with speed and crisp passing.
“We just keep playing. It’s a 48 minute game,” Popovich said. “Sometimes you’re going to have the momentum, make some shots. In the end, realizing that it’s 48 minutes and all that matters is the next play is the most important thing.”
The Spurs had three players finish in double figures, led by Parker’s 28 point, eight assist, four rebound night. Tim Duncan, who battled with Al Jefferson all game, had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Stephen Jackson knocked down a pair of three-pointers on his way to 14 points off the bench.
“He was really good tonight. He got some big boards, some important buckets, getting fouls drawn,” Sours guard Manu Ginobili said about Jackson. “He had a very complete game. We needed his competitiveness and toughness and he brought it today. It was great to see him play like that.”
The Spurs will look to go up 2-0 on Wednesday in San Antonio.