SAN ANTONIO — The Jazz's 25th playoff appearance in 29 years began in rough fashion as Utah lost 106-91 to the veteran San Antonio Spurs. Paul Millsap scored 20 points to lead the Jazz, while Tony Parker scored 28 to lead the Spurs.
Guards: With five turnovers and just two assists, Devin Harris chose the wrong time to play one of his worst games of the season, perhaps a surprise given his strong April performances. Josh Howard was scoreless in 16 minutes, while DeMarre Carroll played more than the veteran, scoring seven points. Harris, Howard and Carroll combined to shoot 6 of 21. Meanwhile, the Utah backcourt was less than constructive in defending Tony Parker, whose 28 points (on 10-of-19 shooting) were complimented by eight assists. GRADE: D
Forwards: Paul Millsap and Gordon Hayward combined for 37 points and 12 rebounds, offsetting the mix of the ever-productive Tim Duncan (17 points, 11 rebounds), Stephen Jackson (14 points, four rebounds) and Kawhi Leonard. While Millsap was effective from the field (8 of 14), Hayward should be applauded for gaining 12 attempts from the charity stripe on the road, converting all of them. GRADE: B+
Centers: With just 16 attempts from the field in 32 minutes, Al Jefferson at least made half of them. However, the 27 year old, who is playing in the second playoff series of his career, needs to play more physical and gain more than one attempt from the free-throw line per game in this series. His counterpart, Boris Diaw, converted 4-of-5 field-goal attempts en route to nine points. With San Antonio's Matt Bonner scoring nine points, the two centers combined for 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, nearly offetting Big Al, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. GRADE: B
Bench: The Jazz bench was clearly outplayed, getting outscored 44-31. With nine points and five assists, Jamaal Tinsley certainly was an asset in 20 minutes. With seven points, eight rebounds and two blocks in just more than half the game, the case could be made that Tyrone Corbin needed to give Favors more time. Utah benefitted with Manu Ginobili (3-of-10 shooting, three turnovers) not at the top of his game, but Jackson, Bonner and most of the San Antonio supporting cast helped the Spurs stay a step-and-a-half ahead of the Jazz the entire contest. GRADE: C1 comment on this story
Overall: The Jazz must use Game 1 to learn — fast — what must be done to truly compete in a playoff series with a team whose leaders have won multiple NBA titles. Jefferson must take a lesson from the forwards alongside him to play more physical offensively and use his athleticism in getting to the line and causing the arsenal of San Antonio post players to get into foul trouble. As the main floor general, Harris cannot spearhead a 16-turnover effort, a count that won't get it done. So much of it starts with him. Utah must make sure that no one in San Antonio's "Big Three" of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili goes bonkers as Parker did Sunday. GRADE: C
Rhett Wilkinson majoring in communications and political science at Utah State University. He has previously been an intern for the Deseret News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @wilklogan