San Antonio Spurs give Utah Jazz inhospitable reception in playoff return

Published: Sunday, April 29 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 29: Tiago Splitter #22 of the San Antonio Spurs takes a shot against Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 29, 2012 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

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SAN ANTONIO — The Utah Jazz left the Alamo City and flew back home to the Beehive State shortly after Sunday's playoff game.

And who can blame them?

Between the French guy and the grumpy old man they had to deal with, the Jazz didn't get a very warm greeting in their return to the NBA playoffs after a postseason away.

"I wouldn't say it was a rude awakening," Jazz point guard Devin Harris said. "But they did what they were supposed to do. We've got to respond now."

Amidst AT&T crowd chants of "MVP-MVP-MVP," Frenchman Tony Parker had an MVP-like performance while helping slam the Game 1 door in the Jazz's face during the San Antonio Spurs' 106-91 victory Sunday afternoon.

Tim Duncan chased the young Jazz kids off his porch with a clutch-when-he-needed-to-be playoff-opener that included 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Making it worse, the Spurs' superior sidekicks pulled the welcome mat out from under Utah, with Stephen Jackson (14 points), Matt Bonner (nine), Boris Diaw (nine) and Manu Ginobili (seven) each contributing to San Antonio's rout.

If the Jazz were hoping for hospitable hosts — not to mention a feel-good result for the underdogs — they probably should've looked for a town that doesn't have Gregg Popovich and four NBA Finals banners.

"We've got to get better. We've got to be more sharp and determined to run off and make sure we get the spots that we want to," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said after his first playoff game as the main bench boss. "These guys are experienced guys. They are physical. They are going to try and knock you off everything and … have their hands on you all night."

The Parker-led Spurs' offense clicked as smoothly as ever, especially in timely situations in the third and fourth quarters after the Jazz scraped back into it.

"He's a good player. He's having an MVP-type season," Harris said of Parker. "We've got to do a better job of trying to keep him out of the paint."

Utah had been struggling when it went on a 6-0 run immediately after Corbin teamed up his Big Three of Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Paul Millsap with Harris and Gordon Hayward.

But the Spurs responded by closing off that quarter on an 11-4 run, thanks in large part to excellent spacing and shooting (including 3-pointers by Gary Neal, Jackson and Bonner).

San Antonio had another quick answer — a Parker steal and Bonner trey — for the Jazz after a gutsy surge by Utah cut the lead down to 89-81 with seven-plus minutes to go. The Jazz ended up only scoring 10 more points the rest of the game.

"They took care of business," Harris said. "They're a veteran team."

This was the Jazz's first playoff game in two years — since being swept 4-0 by the Lakers in the second round in 2010.

It'd been even longer since veterans like Harris, Al Jefferson, Josh Howard and Jamaal Tinsley experienced postseason hoops, and it was the first taste for youngsters like Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, DeMarre Carroll, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter.

"This is the first time in a long time I've kind of had butterflies before a game," Jefferson admitted after the lopsided loss. "It's not that I was afraid or anything — just the first time in the playoffs in seven years and so I can just imagine how those other guys feel who've never been."

Hayward noticed that the TV timeouts were longer and the crowd was into it more.

Other than that, though, the second-year shooting guard said, "I don't think it's extremely different."

Unfortunately for the No. 8 Jazz, their result against the No. 1 Spurs wasn't different than it's been lately — not counting Utah's recent win in which it outlasted a San Antonio squad missing the resting Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. This was the Spurs' third double-digit win over the Jazz since the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season began.

"They're a good team. They've got good players," Hayward said. "I watched them when I was in junior high and high school doing this. They know the ins-and-outs of the game and different ways they can get different players open and find themselves open."

Defensively, San Antonio, which won its 11th straight game, took away Utah's interior game — outscoring the Jazz 58-44 in the paint and holding the visitors to 42.1-percent shooting.

Offensively, Parker sliced, diced and pick-and-rolled his way through Utah's defense, San Antonio's deep reserves paid off and Duncan had his fundamental fun at the Jazz's expense.

Duncan, who just turned 36 years old, even gave Big Al a taste of his own pump-faking medicine en route to a slam while sparking the Spurs' spurt that resulted in an 85-70 lead after three quarters.

"Like I told him before the game, it's just an honor to go against him in the playoffs," Jefferson said of his matchup with four-time champ Duncan. "I'm learning as I go, playing against him. … It's a great experience."

Added the 27-year-old Jefferson: "To me, he's not as old as everyone says he is. He still steps up and plays well on the court."

Similar to their season, the Jazz were strong at times and stumbled at times.

Millsap scored 20 points with nine rebounds, Hayward contributed 17 points in his playoff debut and Big Al chipped in with 16 points and nine boards.

But they had too many turnovers (16 vs. the Spurs' 10), defensive lapses and offensive execution issues against a championship-caliber team.

"Most definitely, it was a learning experience for us. … Believe it or not, we do walk out with our heads up a little bit," Jefferson said. "Now, let's just go and watch film and learn from our mistake, then get ready for Game 2."

Added Favors, who had eight rebounds and seven points: "I'm just happy to get the first one out of the way, so we can come back better next game."

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EMAIL: jody@desnews.com


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