Spurs’ smooth progression to 2-0 lead

By Jeff McDonald

Danny Green snatched a rebound late in the first half Wednesday. Then he got excited, and went deep.

Looking to hit a streaking Tony Parker on a fly pattern, Green miscalculated and sailed the ball into the Utah bench. After the turnover, still early in the Spurs’ 114-83 Game 2 romp at the ATT Center, Green didn’t even bother to look at his coach.

Just his point guard.

“I was like, ‘Damn, Tony,’” Green recalled later, laughing. “You could have made me look a little better.”

This was the Spurs’ evening in a nutshell. Their biggest failing was that their All-Star point guard wasn’t 8 feet tall.

Everything else went their way, starting with a 20-0 run in the second quarter and ending with a 2-0 series lead that for the Jazz must only feel insurmountable.

Seven players scored in double figures for the Spurs, who led 53-28 at half en route to the third-largest playoff victory in franchise history. It was the Spurs’ most lopsided win in the postseason win since a 34-point trouncing of Sacramento in 2006.

“For whatever reason, we just let them do whatever they wanted to do,” Utah forward Gordon Hayward said.

As is becoming clearer with each passing moment in the series, the Jazz might not have much of a say in the matter. After closing the regular season by winning 10 in a row, the Spurs have extended it to a 12-game winning streak, technically their longest of the season.

Whatever adjustments the Jazz made on Parker — going under screens, switching on pick and rolls and hedging harder with their big men — it didn’t seem to work.

Parker finished with 18 points and nine assists in less than 28 minutes, and would have logged less playing time had Popovich had his way. Late in the third quarter, Popovich sent Patrick Mills to the scorer’s table to replace him.

After a brief on-court debate during a Utah free throw, Parker convinced Popovich to leave him a few more minutes, and waved Mills back to the bench.

“When you have a game like this, it’s always a struggle between keeping someone in shape and not letting them get hurt,” Popovich said.

These are the worries of a coach ahead by 38 points in the second half of a playoff game.

The Spurs got a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double from their oldest player — 36-year-old Tim Duncan — but it was largely the work of their two youngest starters that set the fuse on the rout.

After looking overwhelmed early in Game 1, 20-year-old rookie small forward Kawhi Leonard and Green, a 24-year-old guard, nearly outscored Utah in the first half by themselves in Game 2. Leonard had 12 of his 17 points before intermission, while Green scored all 13 of his.

In all, Leonard had made 6 of his 7 shots, including 3 of 4 3-pointers. It was an offensive bonus for a player drafted for his defense and rebounding.

“They need me to knock down shots if I’m wide open,” said Leonard, who had netted 17 points just three times before. “I’m not out there to miss shots.”

Ostensibly, neither is Al Jefferson, Utah’s center and leading scorer. Wednesday, he proved pretty adept at misfiring anyway.

Flummoxed by a steady diet of Spurs double teams, Jefferson went 5 of 15 for 10 points, part of a night in which the Jazz were shooting below 30 percent into the fourth quarter.

“We made shots and they couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” Popovich said. “It happens to all of us.”

Before he’d even vacated the postgame podium Wednesday, Popovich was already guarding against overconfidence heading into Game 3 on Saturday in Salt Lake City.

“This is nothing to be satisfied about,” he said. “When we get up to Utah, the balls will fall for them. So we have to play a lot better.”

Given the chance, Utah coach Tyrone Corbin would be willing to swap problems. As the series shifts to Salt Lake this weekend, the Jazz can look forward to at least one silver lining.

Unless Parker sprouts another 2 feet between now and then, the Spurs are unlikely to play much better than this.

Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN


Game 1:

Game 2:

Game 3 Saturday: Spurs @Jazz, 9 p.m.
TV: FSNSW, TNT Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

Game 4 Monday: Spurs @Jazz, TBD
TV: FSNSW, TBD Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

* Game 5 Wednesday: Jazz @Spurs, TBD
TV: FSNSW, TBD Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

* Game 6 May 11: Spurs @Jazz, TBD
TV: FSNSW, TBD Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

* Game 7 May 13: Jazz @Spurs, TBD
TV: TBD Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

* — As needed in best-of-7 series

Leave a Reply