You can’t hit what you can’t see

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AT&T CENTER — They weren’t really threats, nor were they enough to warrant a #shotsfired hashtag on Twitter, but the Jazz entered Wednesday’s Game 2 against the Spurs with proclamations that it would be more physical with Tony Parker.

Parker torched Utah in Game 1 for 28 points and eight assists in a Spurs win, but Game 2 was supposed to be different. On Wednesday, Parker was supposed to take some hard fouls and earn his points.

Instead, Tony Parker saw more of the same and finished with 18 points and nine assists as the Spurs cruised to a 114-83 win to take a 2-0 lead over the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. So lopsided was this contest that Parker and Tim Duncan didn’t even get to the end of the third quarter before Gregg Popovich pulled the plug on his regulars.

“I wanted to keep playing to stay in shape because I did not play a lot,” Parker said after the game. “[Pop] said ‘Okay I will give you two more minutes,’ and it was a quick conversation.

“After the next timeout with two minutes left, I went out.”

Parker started the game aggressive, zooming by Jazz point guard Devin Harris with a nifty stutter step on one play and diving through the heart of the Jazz defense on another. Utah may have actually planned to put a licking on Parker in this one, but we’ll never know because Tony Parker was in a gear so high that the Jazz defense couldn’t touch him.

This game was won in the second quarter, when the Spurs went on a 22-2 run to close the first half that made the possibility of losing Game 2 a Grizzly one.

“I thought we moved the ball great. Shooters were making shots,” Parked said. “Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard played great tonight and when they shoot the ball like that, it helps us a lot.”

Green and Leonard combined for 30 points and shot 6-9 from 3-point range, a significant improvement from Game 1 when the pair contributed eight points. An important next step for the young players is consistently producing performances like this on the road. The old basketball cliche is that role players hit shots at home but struggle on the road.

Although if Parker gets them open shots on the road like they received tonight, it won’t matter what gym in what city they play. They’ll have all the time in the world to knock them down.

The rebounding battle

Just as I mention in our Game 2 preview that I didn’t think the Spurs would win the rebounding battle at all in this series, they go out and sneak a 44-43 advantage in there. Truth be told, it’s a bit of a misleading stat.

The Spurs gave up 18 offensive rebounds to Utah in the game, the Spurs had just five. While San Antonio had a 39-25 advantage on defensive boards, that can be attributed to the Spurs shooting over 57% from the floor. There simply weren’t enough missed shots to go around for the Jazz.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll absolutely live with the Spurs giving up 18 offensive boards if it means the Spurs are going to shoot at least 55% from the floor. Especially when the Jazz only turn those second chances into 16 additional points. And credit goes to Tim Duncan for his 13 rebounds, he was a force on the glass for San Antonio.

Just don’t be fooled by the rebounding numbers.

Messin’ with Big Al

One of the big reasons the Spurs have managed to be an excellent team in terms of defensive efficiency in both games of the Jazz series, other than the inability of Devin Harris to do anything positive for Utah, has been the defense played on Al Jefferson.

Big Al is averaging just 13 points per game in the series and is shooting a hair under 42% from the field, which isn’t good considering the distance Jefferson is usually shooting from. Much of the credit for Jefferson’s struggles go to Tim Duncan, who’s been key to checking the Jazz big man.

“They’re getting him off his sweet spots, sending double teams from different areas where he’s not used to seeing them,” Devin Harris said after Game 2.

In the two games so far this series, Jefferson’s shot locations are all right in line with his season averages. The key must be where he is taking those shots and how he’s being bothered. The Jazz guards aren’t penetrating at will and drawing help defense, so the Spurs big men have for the most part had the luxury of staying at home on defense.

And there’s also the issue of help defense on Jefferson, as Harris referred to. The Spurs are notorious for randomizing their double teams, going all the way back to the Shaq Lakers teams of the early 2000s. Not being able to plan for an additional defender could really hinder a big man like Jefferson, who relies so much on fakes and spins to get his shots off.

“We’re trying to do the best we can on a guy who is very difficult to guard,” Coach Pop said after the game. “He’s one of those herky jerky guys that gets you off your feet and he shoots the midrange jumper very well.

“I just think he had a bad night.”

Utah has to hope the home atmosphere in Games 3 and 4 makes their shooters come alive, otherwise Jefferson may be in for some more bad nights before this season is over.

  • DorieStreet

    I watched both games; Devin Harris seemed, at times, disinterested, and Josh Howard looked uninspired. It was early in the previous decade they came on the scene as the new vanguard to help the Mavs get that first title. You just got to know they’ve had a talk or two about getting so close back in 2005-06, and how both of them were not there when the Mavs won the second finals matchup versus the Heat last summer.
    I expect both of them, along with the rest of the Jazz, to do a complete 180 in both their demeanor and body language Saturday night. The Utah franchise will pull out all of the stops to halt the freefall: slogan (“We Believe”) t-shirts worn by all fans; past Jazz greats (Stockton, Malone, Hornecek, etc.) will be in attendance; and the noise level will be artificially amped up in addition to the crowd being in a frenzy.
    Spurs will just have to endure through the initial onslaught a young and intense squad will put up through the first half.

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  • Stijl

    @DorieStreet. Agreed there will be a vigor by the Jazz. (Shame on them is there is not). But this Spurs team this year has shown to NOT be intimidated by such ordinary experiences and in fact been able to reverse common thought and expected outcome to their favor.

    Bottom line as you said…”Spurs will just have to endure through the initial onslaught a young and intense squad will put up through the first half”.

  • FmsAmos

    Hell yeah Devin Harris and Josh Howard looked disinterested, The Spurs jumped on them like a Fourty year old virgin on his first willing women. I could see the Thunder or a younger team coming off a 31 point home game go into game 3 in Utah play flat and let the Jazz get game 3 at home but the Spurs and Pop know that if they lose game 3 it would give that young Jazz team tons of confidence and start playing looking like a much more aggressive better team the rest of the series. Spurs need to win game 3 and put the foot on their throat. Spurs win game 3 then the Jazz will probably take game 4 then game 5 will be a blow out in the Spurs favor at home in San Antonio. The way they’ve played a sweep is very possible but I’ve watched basketball for years now and usually in a series like this the Jazz like team will get game 3 or 4 and in this series if they win one it’ll be 4. A sweep is what we need to keep resting our players through the playoffs because next round the Clips and Grizzlies are more athletic teams than the Spurs even though this offseason the Spurs upgraded their athleticism much more than last year but the Clips and Grizz are still more athletic so let them wear eachother out in a seven game series and us rest up after a sweep and get some more practice for Tiago, Diaw, Leonard, and even James Anderson who I loved coming out of Oklahama State but just too deep at that position to get him playing time but I hope Pop conviences him to stay and let the coaching Staff develop him becuase once Manu is done then Anderson will be needed.

  • FmsAmos

    Yeah the Jazz will come out and I guarantee they’ll put on scrubs everyonce in a while to hack attack and give real hard fouls but this Spurs team and Pop knows they can’t allow the Jazz to win game 3. Put the nail in the coffin, you allow the Jazz win game three then it’s just going to extend the series and even though I could see it go five games with Jazz pulling out all the stops game 4 and the Spurs letting off the throttle but if not a sweep then game 5 will be another 20 plus point victory. Spurs need a sweep and let the Clips/Grizz go seven and wear out because both team are more athletic than the Spurs so Spurs sweep then rest and practice and get ready for the Clips/Grizz. I think if we get the Grizz that could be a sweep too after what the Grizz did to the Spurs last year the Spurs will have plenty of motivation to take them out quick and Zach Randolph played a historical series and he’s not an eighth of what he was last year round one vs. The Spurs neither is Gasol.

  • Tyler

    Seriously, what has happened to Devin Harris over the last few years? His game has totally fallen off since his 2nd (?) year in NJ. I feel like he’s lost some quickness, and as a result, doesn’t get to the rim like he should and settles for jumpers (which he doesn’t hit well) far too often.

    It’s a shame; I thought he had a ton of promise after his first few years in Dallas.

  • RF

    Don’t concern yourself with Offensive Rebounds; in order to get an OR is first you have to miss shots, and the Jazz gave themselves several opportunities.

  • http://www.48mintuesofhell.com Bry

    @Tyler Yeah, that’s a good point. I remember when he was traded to NJ for Kidd and a lot of media heads said it was a bad deal because Harris had massive potential and Kidd was old. And his first season in NJ he was blowing up. Fast-forward a few years and he’s barely even the starter and considered a throw-in in the Deron Williams trade. Has he had a serious injury or something?

  • SAJKinBigD

    @Tyler – Honestly, I think AJ broke him in NJ. Avery had issues with him when both were mavs and I think it only got worse when reunited in NJ. Doesn’t seem Avery’s got much rapport with Deron Williams either. Sad… :( I really thought he had the makings of a great coach.

  • imwithstupid

    The rebounding edge was even greater for the Spurs until the second/third teams went in in the fourth, I thing the Spurs had like a 5 or 6 rebounding edge at that point. Just giving credit where it is due. Can’t wait to see what we can do against taller bigs like the Fakers have, that’s where it should get tougher. Love how the refs have been swallowing the whistles in the playoffs, not great for the Spurs but makes flopping less of an option which makes for better basketball.

  • Tyler

    @ Bry & SAJ

    There’s a difference between not getting along with a coach and not having the physical explosiveness. Just speaking physically, he doesn’t go by guys or move his feet on defense like he used to. I can’t remember or know of any major injury, so I have to believe he just doesn’t put in the work during the summer.

  • SAJKinBigD

    @Tyler: Given the Mavericks’ draft history, I’m in agreement. I know of no injury history either.
    Look at Josh Howard and Roddy-B (supposed to be their answer to TP). Lotsa wasted potential (and I’d be fairly certain that Timmeh is just sick that J-HO came outta Wake) and no real progress in their games. The Mavs only TRULY good draft pick – in I don’t know how long – was Dirk.