For as much as the Utah Jazz were captured is sound bites after Game 1 talking about being more intense, playing more physical and all but putting a bounty on San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker’s head, Game 2 proved to be an even tougher challenge with the Spurs playing the aggressor.
The Jazz fought from behind all game, never taking a lead in the Spurs 114-83 thrashing.
“You got to learn your lessons from it on what makes them good and what made us not so good. Tonight the way they executed and the way they played defense aggressively,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said after watching his team go down 0-2. “Defensively, I don’t think our rotations were as sharp as we wanted them to be for the most part during the game. They came off the pick-and-rolls and we did the first part well, then the guy rolling to basket was open too much. We got to learn our lessons from it and scrap it, and then start it over.”
Utah fell behind quickly, missing their first seven shots as the Spurs got out to an early lead. The Spurs went on an early 8-0 run when the Jazz finally scored their first field goal of the game with just over seven minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Spurs had an 11-point lead to start the second quarter, but the lead started dwindling as errant passes sailed out of bounds or the Spurs passed up open shots to look for better shots that never came. The Jazz slowly built a 9-0 run and got as close as five points when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich began subbing his starters back in.
The Spurs then went on a tear offensively and gave the Jazz fits on the other end of the court. The youth of the Spurs starting lineup went to work. Danny Green knocked down three 3-pointers, Kawhi Leonard added five points to the seven he scored in the first quarter and the Spurs closed out the half on a dominant 22-2 run.
“First of all, I was happy for them (Leonard and Green). It is their first playoffs and you do not know how they are going to react and how they are going to come out after a good first win,” Parker said. “I thought they handled the win pretty well. They both came back very aggressive. Kawhi and Danny both shot the ball really well and they both played great defense.”
By the time the second half started, the Spurs had built an insurmountable lead. Parker, who struggled early when Jazz defenders decided to go under screens making him shoot jumpers instead of attacking the basket, ended up finding the paint often in the third quarter. With Devin Harris struggling on both ends of the floor, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin decided to throw a bevy of defenders at Parker, including Gordon Hayward and on a few possessions, Paul Millsap.
While Parker found open shooters in the first half as he struggled with his jumper, he scored ten points in the first quarter on drives to the basket. He and Duncan kept the pressure on Utah.
The Spurs bench closed out the fourth quarter, which was the only quarter the Jazz led the Spurs in scoring. The Spurs had seven players in double figures, led by Parker’s 18 point, nine assist effort.
The Jazz struggled to get anything going all night. When they tried to go inside to Al Jefferson or Millsap, the Spurs doubled hard and forced turnovers, and their shooters struggled all game. While the Spurs scored from beyond the arch often throughout the game, the Jazz managed only a 16.7 percent clip on threes.
“They’re big guys down there and they’re smart. First off, they’re getting him off his sweet spots, sending double teams from different areas where he’s not used to seeing them.,” Jazz guard Devin Harris said. “We just have to watch a little film and see where they’re coming from and adjust accordingly.”
Leonard finished with 17 points, Green bounced back from a rough Game 1 with 13 points and Tim Duncan had a solid 12 point, 13 rebound night in only 27 minutes. Popovich’s decision to move Boris Diaw into the starting lineup is continuing to pay dividends. He had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Spurs’ 31-point win was their third largest playoff victory in franchise history and the Jazz 28 point first half was three points shy of Portland’s playoff low of 25 points in one half.
The series now shifts to Salt Lake City for the next two games, beginning with Game 3 on Saturday.