SAN ANTONIO — As the joke goes, a doctor performs a checkup on a patient and shortly afterward calls the man's wife. He says her husband is under debilitating stress, in grave danger of dying.
"But," he says, "if you treat him like a king; if you make superb meals, constantly wait on him, do all his errands, iron his clothes, always be available and never disagree with him, there's still a great chance of him recovering."
When she hangs up the phone, her husband says: "Who was that?"
"The doctor," she says.
"What did he say?" says the husband.
Wife: "You're going to die."
Likewise, if the San Antonio Spurs cooperate, in every way, the Jazz can still win their first-round playoff series.
But don't count on it.
The Jazz got annihilated in Game 2 on Wednesday for the second consecutive time. Sunday was a 15-point defeat. On Wednesday they fell behind by as many as 38 points in a 114-83 loss. Stealing a win at the AT&T Center just wasn't going to happen. They have now lost 26 of their last 28 games in San Antonio.
"Embarrassing," offered Jazz center Al Jefferson.
Mused guard Jamaal Tinsley, who has played in 39 playoff games: "This is probably one of the worst."
So the Jazz can add something new to their list of "learning experiences." They've already discovered what it takes to get in the playoffs, but now they know how it is to lose that bad, on that stage.
"You've got to do something, try to learn from it," said the Jazz's Gordon Hayward. "You can't just take nothing from this."
OK, how about a migraine?
On Sunday it was a barrage of inside points that torpedoed the Jazz. The Spurs were fairly cold, making just 6 of 17 3-point shots. This time it was outside shooting that did the most damage — seven 3-pointers in the first half, out of 14 tries, precipitating a 20-0 San Antonio run.
The Spurs led the NBA in 3-point shooting in the regular season.
The outside quietude wasn't likely to last.
"That's what good teams do," Tinsley said. "You taken one option away from them and they do other things. They did what they were supposed to do."
It didn't hurt that the Jazz settled for bad shots throughout the first half and didn't stretch their defense to the perimeter — an old Jazz problem. Yet whenever they jumped outside to defend on Sunday, Tony Parker simply drove past.
"We had a good night, they had a poor night," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I think they shot 23 percent in the first half, or close to that. That's probably not going to get it done for anybody."
Despite getting manhandled in Game 1, the Jazz approached Wednesday's game with a nothing-to-lose attitude.
"You go through the adjustments and we expect to be a lot better tonight," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said after Wednesday's shoot-around.
By game's end, the tone had changed.
"We couldn't get the ball in the hole," he said.
Exactly how the Jazz were supposed to adjust is another question. When the other team has better players, and more of them, what to do? Play terrific defense and hope they miss. Neither of those happened.
There were the usual X's and O's to Wednesday, but there were also psychological and physical aspects to Game 2. Corbin chose to fly his team home Sunday night, rather than stay several days in San Antonio. The Jazz returned on Tuesday.
Better to sleep in your own bed than a hotel, right?
But it looked like they had all been sleeping on the couch.
Just before tip-off, it was a time for acknowledgments. Popovich was honored as NBA Coach of the Year, his second such award. Personality of the year? The man's as touchy as a feral cat. He reluctantly accepted the honor, walking modestly to the sidelines, slightly shaking his head.
He seemed to consider it undeserved or a mild distraction.
At this point, that's about all the Jazz are to the Spurs. They weren't expected to win in San Antonio. So chalk it up to another learning experience. This year the younger players discovered what it's like to make the playoffs. Now they've learned the prognosis isn't good. And just like the guy with his life in the balance, nobody's going to save them if they don't do it all by themselves.
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