Tom Smart, Deseret News
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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz's postseason ended earlier than the team and its fans hoped it would. The season lasted four games longer than most people thought it would.
But even though they were swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs after Monday's 87-81 playoff-ending defeat, the Jazz went down with a fight and a fire like their coach hoped they would.
The ending could've been better, but it could've been a lot more bitter, too.
Reflective of their never-quit season, the Jazz scraped and clawed their way back into Game 4, somehow making a tight game out of a seeming blowout in the last minute to pull within four with 49.4 seconds remaining after trailing by 21 points only five minutes earlier.
"We weren't going to let each other off the hook and come out and lay down and let these guys take a win here," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought we fought and continued to fight and make sure to show who we are."
It hardly came as a shocker that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili teamed up to remind the Jazz who they are in the final half-minute while bringing Utah's valiant comeback effort to a screeching halt. The Jazz had a chance to cut into the Spurs' suddenly shaky lead — 81-60 with under six minutes, down to four — when Parker stole the ball from Paul Millsap and tossed it to his Argentine assassin for an easy game-clinching layup with 18.9 seconds remaining.
"It's a bad experience, a bad feeling, to just know your season's over with," Jazz center Al Jefferson said after his game-high 26-point peformance. "(After) all the hard work we put in and all the fighting and all the things we had to fight through, it just (stinks) to know the season's over."
Despite the heart-searing pain of dreams dashed, that near-heroic push against a championship-caliber Spurs team helped the Jazz hold their heads up high heading off the court and into the locker room for the final time this season.
Jazz emotions ranged from feeling disappointment over being mostly dominated by Tim Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and crew to recapturing the satisfactory sweetness of the year-ending five-game winning streak and season-long overachieving that helped them defy critics by making the playoffs in a supposed rebuilding year.
"We decided to make that push at the end of the season to make the playoffs and we just kept fighting and fighting," Jazz forward Derrick Favors said. "We came up short in the series, but we can't hold our heads (down) for it.."
Utah even gained renewed respect from the man whose team befuddled the Jazz on seemingly every move all series long — from unsuccessfully trying to contain Parker on the pick-and-roll, failing to cool off the Spurs' outside shooters or not being able to score inside against San Antonio's stifling defense.
"The Utah Jazz showed you the kind of class and the kind of organization that they are," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who partly modeled his team after Jerry Sloan's successful squads over the years.
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