Game 4: San Antonio Spurs (3) at Utah Jazz (0), 6 p.m. MT, Monday at EnergySolutions Arena (TNT)
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz have taken a pretty good beating over the past week.
They've put up 58 fewer points overall and been outscored 170-108 in the paint in three blowout losses to the San Antonio Spurs.
They've witnessed Tony Parker pick-and-roll like John Stockton, seen a rejuvenated Tim Duncan look like he's bathing in Oil of Olay, watched helplessly as Matt Bonner, Stephen Jackson, Kawhi Leonard and Gary Neal have chucked 3-point daggers into the bottom of the nets, and marveled as Gregg Popovich channeled his inner Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Red Auerbach.
The Jazz's defense has become suspect, their confidence seemingly shattered, their aim all skewonkered.
They've even fallen into that bleak no-NBA-team-has-ever-conquered-a-3-0-deficit territory.
But get this: The Jazz want more.
They aren't ready to throw in one of the white towels fans waved around at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday while the team stumbled against the Spurs again.
And not just because they're fearing the season-ending task of cleaning out their lockers.
"We're trying to rewrite history," a still-hopeful Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We're going to come out and compete, man."
While winning this series is out of reach judging history, the Jazz are at least hoping to extend the education they're receiving from the San Antonio School of Hard Knocks.
For this young team, valuable lessons have accompanied the vile losses.
That's why the Jazz scoff at the notion that it would've been better for them to lose their way into the lottery — and keep their pick that's heading to Minnesota — instead of getting smashed by the Spurs.
"Experiences are invaluable. Just playing in the postseason is good for us as a team," said Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward, who's getting his first taste of NBA playoffs. "We just have gotten outplayed thus far, but I don't think you should ever play for picks."
Corbin knows the Spurs would like to teach the Jazz one more thing: learning how to deal with being swept.
"If we don't learn the lesson from the first three games then (Monday) night won't be fun for anybody but San Antonio," Corbin said. "We've got to make sure we understand that these guys aren't going to give up. They're not going to allow us to come in and win a game. They want to finish you right now. They want to embarrass you. They wan to bury you. They want to bury you in your home floor in front of your home fans."
That lump of a lesson is one Corbin would prefer to delay as long as possible.
"We know we have one game left to extend this series and we want to try to get back to San Antonio," he said. "Nobody's going to feel sorry for us, and we can't feel sorry for ourselves."
It'd be easy for the Jazz to sulk in dejection — and Corbin admitted the team was down after Saturday's defeat. But at what could've been their last practice until next fall, players didn't shy away from acknowledging their own weaknesses and their opponents' strengths.
Seeing as they haven't been able to celebrate success yet, they're determined to learn from losses.
"Any team like us, a young team who are trying to establish themselves, you need to take notes from a team like San Antonio," Jefferson said. "They just do everything the right way. You've almost got to play a perfect game to even have a chance to win against them."
Added Big Al: "Sooner or later, we want to get to the point that we be like a team like San Antonio."
In other words, they want to do the teaching instead of being taken to school. On Sunday, the Jazz pupils shared what they've learned from Professor Pop:
The value of top-notch floor generals (Parker and Manu Ginobili), floor spacing, reliable 3-point shooting and pick-and-roll play, sticking with and executing your offense, playing defense together, and pushing bigs out of their spots (the story of Jefferson's series).
"It's a lesson learned for us," Corbin said. "You have to force your will on guys and they do it on the offensive end as well as on the defensive end."
Paul Millsap pointed out that the Spurs are disciplined, help each other and keep Jazz players out of the lane.
"They're one of the elite teams in this league," the Jazz forward said. "If we can take something from what they're doing, and that's them playing a team basketball game, that's them moving the basketball, that's them helping each other on defense. If we want to be good, that's what we've got to do too."
Jefferson realizes the Jazz can't quick-fix their way to success. "San Antonio didn't get the way they is overnight. They've got three main guys that have been playing together a while. They've got great role players that know their role—unselfish. Them guys are passing up open shots to get a better open shot. I've never seen nothing like that before."
Hayward rattled off a list he's learning (maybe re-learning) from the Spurs: "They do all the little things well. They share the ball and they play really well defensively. They're always there on their rotations. …You got to play the whole 48 minutes, especially against a team like this. Any mistakes, they'll make you pay. Turnovers, bad shots, missing an assignment, it can turn into a quick two, four, six points."
Corbin, in his first postseason as head coach, has even admitted to needing to find more playing time for young guys who've produced in recent outings, like big man Derrick Favors and guard Alec Burks.
If nothing else, Jefferson believes this has been a painful-but-productive tutorial for the Jazz to make them realize how far they are from being a No.. 8 team to becoming a championship contender.
"It's a good experience to play against them," Big Al said. "We've got a long way to go if we talk about being a great team, not only (to) make the playoffs, but have some success in the playoffs."
The Jazz would consider a 3-1 deficit a successful start.
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