The two teams pitted against each other Sunday played their roles nearly perfectly. The San Antonio Spurs looked every bit the hottest team in the league, while the Utah Jazz battled, but could not keep up with their opponent. The Spurs enjoyed a fairly easy victory, winning 106-91 to take the 1-0 lead in the series.
The Big Three: They have been doing it longer than their counterpart trios in Boston and Miami. The San Antonio threesome of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili continues to excel. Duncan finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists — all while anchoring the stout Spur defense.
Parker sliced and diced his way to game-high totals of 28 points and eight assists. He was able to effectively run the pick-and-roll, creating scoring opportunities for his teammates and for himself. He orchestrated a 106-point effort, which was actually a decrease from the Spurs’ recent offensive performances.
Finally, Ginobili was quieter, but his heady leadership was vital toward the victory. He had a pair of nice dunks and his passing helped stop some mini-Utah runs.
Impact of Changes: Both Utah and San Antonio made adjustments in their starting lineups. One was successful; the other was the opposite.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich went with Boris Diaw in the opening five. While his numbers do not pop out of the stat sheet — nine points and five rebounds in 26 minutes — the veteran’s passing acumen helped spread the ball around by inserting another facilitator at the start the game. Diaw also looked more spry than he has in awhile, making a few impressive forays to the hoop. He had a plus/minus of plus-12.
Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin, meanwhile, opted to go with forward Josh Howard ahead of DeMarre Carroll. Howard was a mere two games removed from injuries that caused him to sit out for weeks, while the surprising Carroll was integral to the Utah playoff push. Howard looked out of synch, missing all four of his shots en route to a scoreless, two-turnover stint. His plus/minus was minus-9 in 16 minutes.
Experience Toward a Brighter Day: One of the biggest benefits of the Jazz earning a postseason berth is the important experience their young core players will earn. All four of Utah’s promising players saw solid playing time, and for the most part, seemed up to the playoff challenge.
Gordon Hayward had a nice playoff debut, tallying 17 points and three rebounds. His aggressiveness earned him a 12-12 free throw outing. He mixed it up defensively and did not back down from Ginobili.
Derrick Favors too was solid with seven points, eight rebounds and consecutive blocked shots in the second quarter. He seemed comfortable playing in the postseason.
Alec Burks had six points in 11 minutes, and Enes Kanter had 10 up-and-down minutes.
- The Spurs bench did its thing, outscoring Utah’s reserves 44-31.
- Al Jefferson had 16 points, but it required 16 shots to get them. He had only one free-throw attempt.
- San Antonio had a collective 2.5 assist/turnover ratio, having 25 dimes to 10 miscues.
- The Spurs were a decent 6-17 on 3-pointers, but their trio of trifectas to end the third quarter — by Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson and Matt Bonner — were the ultimate momentum shifters.
- Seven Utah players played in their first playoff games.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.