Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Shooting just 36 percent from the field, the Jazz lost 87-81 against San Antonio in Game 4 Monday night. With the win, San Antonio sweeps away Utah from the postseason.
Al Jefferson led the Jazz with 26 points while the Spurs' Manu Ginobili played his finest game of the series, scoring 17.
GUARDS: With 19 points (yes, on 6-of-17 shooting) and seven assists, Devin Harris played well for a second straight game after giving miserable offerings in Texas. Harris had more assists in Games 3 and 4 each than the first two games of the series combined.
However, Gordon Hayward played quite poorly for the third straight contest, shooting 0 of 7 from the field while laying a goose egg in the point category. Hayward finished Games 2 through 4 shooting an atrocious 4 of 27, making him 6 of 33 for the series.
Tony Parker, the main difference-maker in the first three games of the series, shot just 4 of 14 and had just one more assist (three) than turnovers (two). San Antonio's Danny Green followed a 14-point night with just five on 1-of-5 shooting. But Manu Ginobili, who played more Green, made of for much of it. GRADE: C
FORWARDS: Utah's second-leading scorer during the regular season, Paul Millsap continued to lead the forwards in an icy shooting display from the field. He went just 4 of 17. The undersized power forward (especially in this series) nabbed an astounding 19 boards but shot just 12 of 40 in Games 2 through 4.
Some might find it peculiar that Tyrone Corbin waited until the Jazz's final game of the season to start fledging All-Star Derrick Favors, but it was the right move. The not-yet 21 year old scored 16 points (on 4-of-8 shooting) with 10 rebounds. He scored 21.6 points per 48 minutes in the last two games of the series. In Games 1 and 2, he was averaging 16.3 in the same amount of time. The forwards did well in making things difficult for Kawhi Leonard (three points on 1-of-7 shooting), though Ginobili and Gary Neal (11 points, 4-of-6 shooting) picked up the slack. The Jazz surely could deal with an 11-point, five-rebound night from Tim Duncan. GRADE: B
CENTERS: Al Jefferson showed much of why the franchise pays him big bucks. The 27 year old scored 26 points on 13-of-19 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds while Boris Diaw went scoreless in 21 minutes. His backup, Tiago Splitter, scored 10 points in near-equal playing time, but took nine field goal attempts to do it. With three solid-to-excellent performances in the series Big Al was one of the only highlights for Utah in its postseason stint. GRADE: A
BENCH: Sure, they were given more total minutes than the Jazz reserves, but the San Antonio bench outscored Utah's 57-10. Not once did the Jazz bench outscore the Spurs' backups in the series. With less than 18 minutes, late-season signee DeMarre Carroll saw the most time, scoring six points. He averaged 18.3 minutes in the series.
While Ginobili and Neal led the way for San Antonio, Stephen Jackson gave 26 productive minutes with six rebounds and a couple of damaging deep balls. Ginobili hadn't scored more than seven points or made more than a third of his field goals in any game in the series before Monday's contest. The Argentinian went 3 of 6 from distance. GRADE: D
OVERALL: Four games wasn't enough for Utah's young crew to learn the importance of playing at a new level to compete with the league's best in a high-profile setting. Then again, perhaps they had been playing more to their peak during the regular season while San Antonio was reserving more of its ability for the playoffs.
Jefferson spoke volumes when he said after Game 2 that the Spurs knew Utah's plays better than the Jazz did, and that might explain why Big Al's team never shot better than 42 percent in any game of the series. Shooting just 17 of 26 from the charity stripe — after going just 14 of 26 two days earlier — in a six-point loss must hurt.
If anything, the series taught the important lesson of giving Favors plenty of playing time. It may be a sign of Favors' star potential as much as it is a conundrum for Corbin and Jazz management to know how to balance their top two scorers from this year (Jefferson and Millsap) while giving their top youngster Favors) deserving time in a promising 2012-13 season. GRADE: C+
Rhett Wilkinson is 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 at Twitter: wilklogan
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