Jerry Sloan looks at the opposition, each and all doing their part, and practically drools in admiration. He watches his own club, no more than a couple with their act truly together, and it about makes him spittin' mad.
Therein lies the difference between the San Antonio Spurs and the Jazz two games into the NBA's 2007 Western Conference finals, a chasm so wide you can line up abreast 20 or so of Sloan's treasured John Deere tractors and still not touch either side.
"It's kind of interesting: They're not scoring 150 points every night," Sloan said of the team that leads the best-of-seven series 2-0 heading into tonight's Game 3 at EnergySolutions Arena. "But they're very, very efficient with everything they do. That's not a lot of flair, but that's winning basketball."
"We keep trying to get a 150-point game every night," the farmer from Illinois said.
"They don't come out and start shooting 3-point shots to start the ballgame off," Sloan said. "They pass the ball around, run a little pick-and-roll, throw the ball inside, play off of that and, then, if they get a 3-point shot, they shoot it. I mean, they're coming out and getting layups. That's when you're efficient."
"If some guy's gonna complain about not getting enough shots," Sloan said, "then he's probably not gonna guard anybody and not have anything else go well. I think that's a part of growing up and I hate to keep using that word, because I'm worn out with it."
"You have to be awfully tough to play against them," the Jazz coach said, "and right now they're far ahead of us."
"You worry about missing a shot or something on the other end of the floor, and it takes your concentration away," he said. "We have to be stronger than that mentally."
Well, you get the picture and it isn't a pretty one for Utah, which appears to perhaps be having an even tougher battle with its own self-doubt than with a San Antonio team that simply owned the Jazz in the series' first two games.
It's for that very reason, veteran guard Derek Fisher suggested, that the Jazz must avoid opening Game 3 overwhelmed by a sense of urgency.
"In terms of desperation, or a feeling as though life is slipping away from us right at the start of this game I think that will be a mistake on our part," he said.
"I think it's important to really come out and be who we are, to be smart, to be efficient, to be poised and composed and to allow the way we play basketball to win the game," Fisher added. "If we try to win this game on emotion and on the crowd and on all those things that we really don't have a lot of control over, then we'll be in trouble."
Perhaps the Jazz's best course for steering clear of tribulation, then, will be trying to get others going besides just point guard Deron Williams and power forward Carlos Boozer.
"We have to have everybody step up," Williams said. "We have to have everybody full force on this team. ... We need everybody clicking, everybody on full cylinder."
Williams and Boozer combined for 113 of Utah's 196 points in Games 1 and 2.
The rest of the Jazz, though, have struggled like Sloan trying not to forget just how far his franchise has come in its first postseason appearance since 2003.
Fisher shot 1-for-9 from the field in Game 2, and is 2-of-16 in the series. Fellow shooter Mehmet Okur is not much better at 7-for-28 in the two games combined. And do-it-all Andrei Kirilenko has done little with just one block and two steals, all from Game 2.
The Jazz's bench hasn't fared much better, combining for only eight points in Game 2 and making little difference in Game 1.
No wonder Sloan said, "We're going to have to have a tremendous effort out of everybody."
Little wonder, too, his players agree.
"Our team has relied all season, including the postseason, on really good, balanced offensive production," Fisher said. "We've never been a team that has really built ourselves on having success with just two or maybe three guys doing most of the scoring for us."
Striking a balance between getting everyone involved and taking advantage of what little the Spurs allow, however, is no simple task.
"They definitely try to take things away," Williams said. "They don't help much off Memo, they're not helping much off Fish (Fisher) because he hurt (earlier playoff opponents) Golden State and Houston with his outside shooting. They clog up Boozer, and that's why I am getting to the lane pretty easily. They are a smart team."
"We've proven this year when we've got five guys on the court that are all involved in the offense, we're tough to guard," forward Matt Harpring added. "I just don't think we're as good when one or two guys are trying to do it all. But you've got to give San Antonio credit. ... They've scouted us pretty good, and they know exactly what we're gonna do, and they try to take it away from us. That's what they're supposed to do."
And they do it, Sloan would hasten to add, oh-so-well.
"At the end of all situations they've been involved in," the Jazz coach said, "they've been able to make plays and we can't see it coming. That's what smart teams do."
Sloan, dry from exasperation, probably wouldn't mind Utah's point taking a turn churning some dirt."We're not screening well. We're not moving well without the ball," Williams said. "We've got to execute. We've got to go through our offense full speed, not half speed, and look for all options."
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