It’s been two days off, but the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz are ready to duel in game two of their opening round playoff series tonight. The Spurs hold a 1-0 lead in the series after an impressive 106-91 win on Sunday. The expectation is that Tiago Splitter might not play after spraining his wrist in game one.
The Spurs made league-wide news on Tuesday, as head coach Gregg Popovich was announced as the winner of his second Coach of the Year award. The Jazz were in Utah over the last two days, but they’ve arrived back in San Antonio and have vowed to make this a much more physical series.
Tony Parker’s 28 point performance in game one didn’t sit well with the Jazz’ Devin Harris and Al Jefferson, so the Spurs must expect an even more physical battle in game two as they continue trying to protect home court.
Playoff Case No. 2: Utah Jazz (36-30)
Offense vs. Offense
- 1. Points: Spurs (106) – Jazz (91) = Spurs
- 2. Assists: Spurs (25) – Jazz (17) = Spurs
- 3. Shooting percentage: Spurs (47.6%) – Jazz (42.1%) = Spurs
- 4. Three point shooting percentage: Spurs (35.3%) – Jazz (30.8%) = Spurs
- 5. Turnovers: Spurs (10) – Jazz (16) = Spurs
Offensive Leader: Spurs 5-0
Defensively, the Spurs did a solid job in game one by holding Jefferson, Utah’s season-leading scorer, to 16 points on 16 field goal attempts.
Paul Millsap will have to be the defense’s focus as he scored 20 points by shooting 50% in the game. Another player who really made the Spurs pay with his ability to get to the foul line was Gordon Hayward. Hayward not only scored 17 points in game one, but he got to the foul line six times for 12 free throw attempts, a case in which he made every single foul shot. Danny Green will have the responsibility of trying to limit Hayward, especially when Hayward attacks in transition, where he was able to draw most of his fouls.
The Jazz went on a short 6-0 run with their big man lineup of Jefferson, Millsap, and Derrick Favors, but the Spurs quickly countered. As our own Trevor Zickgraf wrote, the Jazz will continue to make the proper adjustments to make that lineup much more effective as Favors only scored seven points in game one.
The Spurs also did a good job along with the Jazz’ help in causing Utah to turn the ball over 16 times in game one. Utah normally averages a little less than 14 turnovers per game, and Harris spoke about being careless with the ball after game one in the locker room. Harris himself was responsible for five of the Jazz’ 16 turnovers.
Rookie Kawhi Leonard also did an excellent job of holding Josh Howard scoreless in game one, and game two should only build the Leonard’s confidence of being in the playoffs.
Defense vs. Defense
- 1. Opponent scoring: Spurs (91) – Jazz (106) = Spurs
- 2. Opponent shooting: Spurs (42.1%) – Jazz (47.6%) = Spurs
- 3. Opponent 3PT shooting: Spurs (30.8%) – Jazz (35.3%) = Spurs
- 4. Rebounds: Spurs (39) – Jazz (45) = Jazz
- 5. Personal Fouls: Spurs (18) – Jazz (24) = Spurs
Defensive Leader: Spurs 4-1
Offensively, the Spurs were able to do what they wanted to the Jazz’ defense except outgun them. The Jazz won the fast break battle 23-16, but the Spurs’ pick-and-roll absolutely opened up shots and drives to the basket for the Spurs as the team finished well over their average with 25 assists. Parker’s ability to penetrate the defense at will was a key reason as he collected eight assists. Even though Manu Ginobili didn’t have his best scoring game, he was still able to collect four assists, while Duncan added five assists himself.
Utah’s pick-and-roll defense has had problems through the majority of the season. It’s not going to be fixed in two days. If the Spurs can get the ball moving and the tempo accelerating in their favor, it’s just one more mismatch they’ll be able to have over the Jazz.
One last area the Spurs must continue to stay active in is rebounding. Though the Jazz still outrebounded them in game one, it wasn’t by a major margin that made Utah’s size in the paint seem any more dominant than what the Spurs have. The major concern for the Spurs will be the workload put on DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner if Tiago Splitter doesn’t play in today’s game.
The Jazz will try to get physical with the Spurs, but their pick-and-roll defense isn’t something they’ll be able to completely fix. As long as the Spurs come out aggressive, push the tempo, box out, limit their fouling, run the pick-and-roll, and share the basketball, I don’t see why there isn’t a reason they shouldn’t be ahead 2-0 going into Utah on Saturday.
The Jazz bench players took a lot more shots than they normally take, and one reason was so they could keep pace with the Spurs’ scoring off the bench. Unfortunately, the Jazz don’t have one of the biggest keys that will play a major part in who advances to the next round, depth. Depth is the one element this Jazz team is missing. It’s why their bench could only post 31-points and the Spurs’ bench posted 44-points. The Jazz were fortunate to lose by 15 points on Monday, what are they going to do if the Spurs bench has a night where they score over 60 points?