April 9, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward Matt Bonner (15) boxes out Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) during the second half at Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz defeated the Spurs 91-84. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Scouting the Jazz: Forgetting the Past

Apr 8, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) posts up against Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) during the first half at the AT

Offensive rating: Spurs – 110.9 (1st), Jazz – 106.8 (6th)
Defensive rating: Spurs – 103.2 (10th), Jazz – 106.1 (19th)
Pace: Spurs – 92.9 (7th), Jazz – 91.4 (12th)
Time: 12:00 PM
TV: FSSW, ESPN

Hard to believe tomorrow marks Game One of the 2012 playoffs. It seems like yesterday Memphis stunned the Spurs in round one. Redemption, though. It is finally San Antonio’s opportunity to redeem themselves. Spurs are practically in the same position. Top seed in the West, going up against a bigger front court, but somehow, San Antonio heads in to the postseason with zero (game-altering) injuries. Of course this series will not be a big TV draw, but the Spurs should be used to going under the radar. So while the country is focused on Thunder-Mavs and Heat-Knicks, Gregg Popovich and Co. have to take care of business and knock out the Jazz like they did the last time they won a championship.

Three things to watch:

Battle in the paint. I know you’ve heard it about a thousand times. “Can San Antonio match-up with Utah’s size?” It will be difficult for the Spurs, but equally for the Jazz. Last season against Memphis was different. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were much bigger and much more imposing. Utah’s front court doesn’t include anyone seven-feet, and let’s be honest, San Antonio has vastly improved since 2011. They have multiple guys who have grown up in a short amount of time, and mesh together fairly well. If each player can stick to their role, San Antonio should be able to win the rebound battle and get the job done in the paint.

Long-range game. Even though the Spurs beat Utah already three times this season and dropped one to the Jazz when the Big Three stayed home, one thing was a bit worrisome the last time the two met at the AT&T Center and in Salt Lake. The Spurs shot below 30% from beyond the arc in those two games, and whether it was a lack of Big Three, a rest-deprived Spurs, or Utah’s defense, San Antonio has to have a better shooting day than they did in early April. Gary Neal recovering from a stinger against Portland is still not 100%, so San Antonio will have to rely on guys like Danny Green, Matt Bonner, and Manu Ginobili to help the Spurs prevail in this series by knocking down the long ball.

Feed off momentum. After the Lakers stomped San Antonio at the AT&T Center, the Spurs have won ten straight to close out their 66-game schedule. So unlike last season when the Spurs were stumbling in to the postseason, a healthy San Antonio squad has to feed off their recent triumphs and maintain their winning ways going forward. The Spurs benefit from playing the first four games of the series Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, and then Monday. The more rest the Spurs can get the better, and if San Antonio can stay hot this upcoming week, they’ll get a lot more of that with very a big possibility of Memphis-LA Clippers going six or seven games.

Final Verdict. Spurs win by eight. I see this being a competitive for a few quarters, then San Antonio taking control in the last minute or two. San Antonio seems ready to contend for a fifth championship, and as David Robinson tweeted a few days ago, this is the best San Antonio has looked going into the playoffs. Hopefully they can live up to the high expectations Spurs Nation has for them.

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Tags: First Round Playoffs San Antonio Spurs Utah Jazz

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