If the three day layoff between games benefited the veteran Spurs, it seemed to have the opposite effect on the Jazz. Utah started the game by missing their first seven shot attempts and didn’t score a field goal until more than 4:30 into the game, by which time the Spurs had already taken an 11-point lead.
The Jazz made a respectable run at the Spurs in the second quarter behind the play of Derrick Favors. The Jazz started the quarter on a 9-0 scoring run, cutting the Spurs’ lead to just five points midway through the period. After just nine minutes of playing time, however, Coach Ty Corbin benched Favors, opting to go with a more experienced lineup. With Favors out of the picture, the Spurs went on a 22-2 scoring run to end the first half while the Jazz missed 13 consecutive shots over a nearly seven-minute span. Favors didn’t see the floor again until the Jazz had fallen behind by an insurmountable 30 points in the third quarter. This brief third quarter stretch was the only time that Favors and fellow bigs, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, played together in the entire game.
At the end of the first half, the Jazz managed to score a grand total of 28 points on an astounding 23% shooting. Meanwhile the Spurs had their way with the Jazz’s defense, scoring 53 first-half points, including 23 fastbreak points and 26 points in the paint to go with 7/14 three-point baskets.
“We just never got [into] a rhythm at either end of the floor,” said Corbin of his team’s slow start. “The effort was there for the most part, but we just couldn’t get the ball to fall in the hole … This is a great ball club and we have to continue to learn. This is the playoffs, it’s different.”
Although the game was essentially over by halftime, the unmerciful Spurs made things even worse for the Jazz in the second half, pushing their lead to 38 points and putting the rest of the NBA on notice that they intend to bring another championship to San Antonio.
“We had a good night and they had a poor night,” said a cordial coach-of-the-year, Gregg Popovich, after the game. “[The Jazz] shot 23% in the first half. That’s probably not going to get it done for anybody. This was just a matter of [the Jazz] having a bad, bad night … We made shots and [the Jazz] couldn’t throw it in the ocean.”
The Spurs had seven different players score in double-figures as fleet-footed point guard, Tony Parker, led a balanced attack with 18 points and nine assists. Rookie swingman, Kawhi Leonard, chipped in 17 points, including three 3-pointers. The Spurs finished the night with 62 points in the paint, ten 3-pointers on nearly 46% shooting and 29 transition points.
“We have to be very careful,” said Gregg Popovich about taking the Jazz lightly. “[When] we get up to Utah, the balls will fall for them so we’ll have to play a lot better.”
The Jazz were led in scoring by Josh Howard and Al Jefferson with 10 points apiece. Favors contributed nine points and nine rebounds in just 21 minutes.
“[The Spurs] did what they were supposed to do. We can’t take [anything] away from them,” said Jamaal Tinsley. “They’re a good team. That’s why they got home-court advantage, to get in these situations. Now we will go back home and try to get two on our home court.”
The Jazz will look to get back in the series in game three at home on Saturday night.