Utah Jazz season ends in loss, but it could have been worse

Published: Tuesday, May 8 2012 12:32 a.m. MDT

"Down 3-0 and I think we were up 17 or 18 (actually 21) and some people probably thought it was over," Popovich continued. "We put in a couple of subs and they just ran it right to us and stuck it to us, because they don't quit."

The Jazz started with a big lineup because Corbin hoped putting 6-10 Favors in with 6-8 Millsap and 6-10 Jefferson would give Utah an inside advantage on offense and defense against the Spurs.

But Utah sputtered out of the gates again, only scoring 19 points in the first quarter. A 21-3 Spurs run, reminiscent of the killer 20-0 surge San Antonio had in the 31-point Game 2 blowout, helped the deep and deadly visitors go into the locker room with a 50-42 lead.

Jefferson scored a couple of baskets in a row for the Jazz in the middle of the second half, but there was a big problem between those two makes. Namely, Utah suffered through dry spell that lasted eight minutes and nine seconds, during which Ginobili hit three 3-pointers and scored 10 points in a 15-0 Spurs run.

San Antonio stretched that lead to 21 before Utah dug deep one last time. Even that last lineup was reflective of the Jazz's season makeup, considering it included veterans-trying-to-prove-themselves in Jefferson, Millsap and Devin Harris, a young up-and-comer in 20-year-old Favors and a player trying to find his way in the league in DeMarre Carroll, who was picked up in February after Denver waived him.

Sure, they fell short. But, like the team that bounced back after losing 11 of 14 in February and overcome numerous obstacles and injuries, went out fighting.

"They are just a class team and a class organization," Popovich added. "Ty has done a great job of keeping that going. It is just who they are and they showed it tonight. I just have to congratulate them on that."

Jefferson was equally proud of his team, which helped him get back into the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season in 2005.

"I'm not just saying, but this is the best group of guys I've ever been around. We never let no one had us thinking that we couldn't achieve this goal of getting to the playoffs. We always stayed together through thick and thin," Jefferson said. "At the end of the day, you can't ask for nothing more than a great group of guys like this."

Well, he actually can — advance in the playoffs with a great group of guys.

"I think," he said, "the sky's the limit for us."

Email: jody@desnews.com Twitter: DJJazzyJody Blog: Jazzland.blogs.deseretnews.com

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