Early on, the Jazz were confronted with many of the same problems that they faced in three regular-season losses to the Spurs. Once again, all-star point guard Tony Parker had no trouble getting into the paint and dismantling Utah’s defense. Parker finished with a game high in both points (28) and assists (8). Parker was supported, as usual, by veteran center Tim Duncan who finished the game with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. Demonstrating his team’s depth beyond Parker and Duncan, Spurs coach Greg Popovich frenetically cycled through substitutions, playing 10 players in the first quarter alone. Coming off the bench, Stephen Jackson (14 points), Matt Bonner (9 points), and Manu Ginobili (7 points) all hurt the Jazz tremendously.
Meanwhile, the Jazz struggled to find a lineup capable of countering the Spurs’ efficiency. To start the game, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin experimented with his team’s starting lineup, replacing DeMarre Carroll with Josh Howard, fresh off of an injury. The lineup failed by almost every metric, shooting only 38% in the first quarter and scoring only 8 points in the paint. Though they would both make significant offensive contributions later in the game, Jazz pillars Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson shot a combined 4-11 in the opening quarter.
Despite the Jazz’s struggles, Corbin reserved his much-adored big lineup –featuring Jefferson, Favors, Millsap, and Hayward—until late in the third quarter. The proficient combination quickly cut the Spurs’ lead to five points. For a short time, the Jazz seemed to be doing everything right – scoring, getting rebounds, and drawing fouls. The success did not last, however, as Tim Duncan answered with 10 third-quarter points. With back-to-back three-point baskets, the Spurs ended the third quarter with a 15-point lead which they carried through an uneventful final period.
With the victory, the San Antonio Spurs have now won 21 of their last 23 games. With the Spurs entering the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak, perhaps today’s blowout victory over the Jazz was expected. Given San Antonio’s prior first-round exit and Utah’s reputation for overachieving, however, neither team is likely paying much attention to expectations. Trailing 0-1 in a best-of-seven series, the Jazz will have a chance to bounce back against the Spurs in Game 2 on Wednesday evening.