SALT LAKE CITY — Through the first three games of the series, the Utah and San Antonio benches had each other played pretty even, with the Spurs holding a slim 117-112 edge in total points, despite the Spurs' overall dominance.
In the Spurs' series-clinching victory Monday night, the final score was closer, but the disparity of the two benches was a mile wide.
The Spurs' reserves, led by Manu Ginobili, outscored the Jazz by a whopping 57-10. Fifty-seven to ten!
"We have been a pretty deep team this year, deeper than we usually are and have depended on that the entire year," said Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich. "It came through for us again tonight. A couple of starters had a tough time getting going and the bench filled in admirably."
Ginobili, the two-time All-Star, who actually plays starter's minutes despite coming off the bench, had been pretty invisible in the first three games, averaging just 5.7 points after scoring 12.9 during the regular season..
However, he came alive Monday when the Spurs' starters were struggling (10 for 37 from the field), as he led the Spurs with 17 points, including a pair of key 3-pointers late in the third quarter when the Jazz made a run and cut San Antonio's lead to three.
"We have a lot of scorers on the bench and we've been trying to do that all year long," said Ginobili. "We try to change the tempo of the game when we come in and we have four good open shooters that are good screeners and drivers. We have been successful all season long and it's one of our keys."
Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich said despite Ginobili's lack of scoring in the first three games that he was still a big contributor, playing defense, getting loose balls and handing out 10 assists in Game 3.
Ginobili shrugged off his lack of scoring in the first three games, saying, "I wasn't making shots, but I wasn't taking that many. We were 3-0 and winning those games with authority, so I really didn't mind. I was finding my teammates and they were making shots."
In the first half when the Spurs pulled away to a 50-42 lead, the Spurs bench outscored the Jazz reserves 33-4. Stephen Jackson, Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair each had six points, while Ginobili, Matt Bonner and Tiago Splitter each scored five. The only Jazz bench points came from Enes Kanter and Jamaal Tinsley.
After the Jazz scored 10 straight points to cut the lead to three at 61-58, Ginobili hit back-to-back 3-pointers in a 42-second span and gave the Spurs a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter. He hit another trey early in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 14.
"It was good to see Manu get his shot back tonight," said Popovich.
DeMarre Carroll was the only Jazz reserve to play well as he almost singlehandedly led the Jazz fourth-quarter comeback, scoring six points and getting five rebounds. However, the rest of the Jazz bench managed four points on 2-of-15 shooting for the game.
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