Spurs strike first, blast Jazz in Game 1

By Jeff McDonald

Tony Parker had an offseason to stew, a lockout to fume, an entire NBA regular season to simmer.

By the time Game 1 against Utah tipped off Sunday afternoon, Parker’s wait for playoff redemption had reached a boiling point. He was primed. He was pumped. He was raring to go.

And then, he literally came bursting out of his shoe.

This is how Parker’s day of atonement began, in a 106-91 victory over the Jazz at the ATT Center: 96 seconds in, Nike in hand, sheepishly begging for a 20-second timeout to rectify a wardrobe malfunction.

His afternoon would improve substantially after that. Parker finished with 28 points and eight assists, helping the top-seeded Spurs put last season’s first-round disaster against Memphis one day further behind them.

“I wanted to make sure I set the table in Game 1, and make sure I was aggressive,” Parker said. “And then build on that.”

The victory staked the Spurs to their first 1-0 lead in a series since the 2008 first round, when they needed miracle 3-pointers from Michael Finley and Tim Duncan to beat Phoenix in overtime.

So long ago was that game that Kawhi Leonard — the Spurs’ starter at small forward Sunday — was a junior in high school then.

The Spurs had a much different Game 1 on the brain when they walked into the ATT Center just after breakfast Sunday. Last year, the Spurs dropped the opener to Memphis, setting the tone for a six-game first-round defeat.

Parker, the Spurs’ All-Star point guard, didn’t exactly have a poor series — he averaged 19.2 points and 5.2 assists — but the perception was that he’d been outplayed by the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley. It was a perception Popovich clung to when he saw a much more focused Parker guiding the French national team in September.

“Pop was mad at me,” Parker said. “He thought I played harder with the national team.”

Parker didn’t agree with the charge, but he knew how his coach expected him to react.

“I told him I’d have a good year this year, and make sure I played with a different attitude,” he said.

The new, somehow improved Parker was again on display in Game 1 against Utah. Behind a flurry of drives and bevy of acrobatic finishes, Parker had 16 points at half. He had 20 at the end of a third quarter that saw the Spurs open up a double-digit lead with 3-pointers from Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson and Matt Bonner.

Early in the fourth, after the Spurs had missed four straight shots, Popovich made the obvious move to stop a scoring drought. He called a play for Parker. The point guard responded by driving for a 3-point play, and later robbed Jamaal Tinsley and found his way to the free-throw line.

Popovich would have been surprised, if he hadn’t seen this Parker every night since about December.

“He’s the reason we’ve been successful this season, and he continued it (Sunday),” Popovich said.

Though Tim Duncan chipped in 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, and Jackson re-introduced himself to the playoffs with 14 points and a pair of 3-pointers, the day belonged to Parker.

“He’s why everyone’s chanting M-V-P,” Jackson said, referring to the home-crowd serenade the accompanied all 10 of Parker’s free-throw tries.

Utah point guard Devin Harris, meanwhile, would not be this year’s Mike Conley — or, for that matter, 2006′s Harris. He was largely absent from Game 1, finishing with seven points.

Paul Millsap led Utah with 20 points and nine rebounds, but the Spurs owned the paint, getting 58 points there — second-most in the club’s postseason history.

“They’re not going to give anything away — you’ve got to go out there and take it,” Harris said. “Obviously, they did what they’re supposed to do.”

As opposed to the season before, when Memphis took Game 1, then became just the second No. 8 seed in the best-of-seven era to advance past the first round.

Boris Diaw, whose start at forward Sunday doubled the French quotient of the Spurs’ first five, said he and Parker didn’t talk about the Memphis series at all. Still, Diaw could sense an extra fire in Parker’s eyes before tipoff.

“He had a focused mentality, and you have to,” said Diaw, who had nine points and five rebound in his Spurs playoff debut. “This isn’t a regular-season game.”

So excited was Parker for Game 1 that he almost immediately ran out of his shoe. Once he strapped it back on, he ran past the Jazz.

Afterward, Parker said all the right things.

“It’s going to be a long series,” he said.

But this much was clear after Sunday: If Parker keeps piling up games like he did Sunday, it will be a much shorter one.

Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN


Game 1: @Spurs 106, Jazz 91 |

Game 2 Wednesday: Jazz @Spurs, 6 p.m.
TV: FSNSW, TNT Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

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

Game 4 May 7: Spurs @Jazz, TBD
TV: FSNSW, TBD Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

* Game 5 May 9: 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

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