Three down, one to go. Or, if you are even more confident, let’s make that 13 to go.
But, let’s face it the Jazz are vastly outmatched and do not look capable of taking one game much less two. They followed their Game 2 performance — a 31-point loss in Game 2 — with a much more polished performance. And, for the better part of the game, the Jazz were always within striking distance.
Of course, they would never get any closer because of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Manu was the primary distributor, dishing out 10 assists and Tony Parker used pick-and-rolls and his elite speed to get to the rim repeatedly. Parker scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, alone, and he finished with 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting.
Parker finished with an emphatic performance but, for the first three quarters, it was Devin Harris who was darting around the perimeter and creating havoc for the Spurs defense, not Parker. Harris wasn’t making much of an impact until then, averaging six points and 1.5 assists in the first two games. Through the first three quarters, Harris already had 20 points and he seemed poised to score more.
But, he finished with 21. Gregg Popovich made a strategic adjustment that might explain Harris’ inability to score points. Instead of defending Harris with Parker, Popovich had Danny Green and Manu defend Harris, two taller and more talented defenders. It’s a shrewd move that we might see more in Game 4 if the Jazz have a 2 guard that Parker, within the realm of possibility, can guard.
When there wasn’t a couple of skip passes around the perimeter or an impetuous Parker foray to the rim, there was almost always a nice Tiago Splitter pick-and-roll possession or a litany of open jumpers for Tim Duncan. Duncan and Splitter scored 17 and 10, respectively.
Stephen Jackson took advantage of spacing and the Spurs perimeter passing, parlaying that into 13 points, including three 3-pointers.
Utah did, however, receive positive contributions from Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson. Jefferson played his best game, recording his first double-double of the Playoffs. Jefferson, predominately operating in the low block, was able to use his nice post game to score 21 points. Favors led the bench with 15 points and his energy on the glass resulted in six offensive rebounds. The Jazz grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, total.
Looking at the box score, you can imagine their surprise when they find out that the Spurs nearly doubled them in points in the paint. The Spurs protected the paint, uncharacteristically, by blocking 11 shots. The 11 shots marked their season-high, and their second-highest total since Jan. 21, 2011.
Sn Antonio, characteristically, also dominated in transition. So, in conclusion (if you weren’t counting), the Spurs bested Utah in transition, points in the paint, ball movement, interior defense and perimeter shooting.
Utah, at the very least, can take solace in the 12 lead changes and eight ties. They almost held a lead at the half, if not for a beautiful set that Popovich ran at the end of the first half to free Matt Bonner in the corner for his only 3-pointer of the night.
That was Utah’s kind of night. They were well within range but the Spurs kept plugging away, relying on their superior execution to slowly defeat the Jazz. Last night, it took a little longer than usual. Give Utah some credit there.
But, if Spurs fans have their way, it’ll only be one more day before the Spurs permanently eliminate the Jazz.
Game 4 will be tomorrow at 7 p.m. CST. The game will be televised on FSSW and TNT.
Gregg Popovich desperately wanted this one hence his reliance on Tony Parker, who logged 39:34 of action … Parker scored 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting, 16 points came in the Spurs 27-point fourth quarter … Manu Ginobili was quite tonight in the points column but his production reverberated around the box score; Ginobili led the team with 10 assists and he grabbed five rebounds … The Jazz converted on 14-of-26 free throws (53.8 percent); their second worst percentage of the entire year … Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap combined for 30 points and 22 rebounds … The Spurs blocked 11 shots, their highest total of the entire year … Tim Duncan recorded three of those blocks, finishing with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting … Duncan is currently on a 10-game streak with at least 10 points … Utah grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and held the rebounding advantage … Every Spur logged playing time except for Patrick Mills …