The San Antonio Spurs beat the Utah Jazz 106-91 Sunday in Game 1 of their first round series, behind 28 points and 8 assists from Tony Parker. The Spurs have taken a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series.
For San Antonio, it was a way to wipe clean the memories of last year’s embarrassing first-round loss to the Grizzlies and get a win in the first game on their home floor. They lead throughout the game and while Utah hung in there, the Spurs busted it open in the third, and were able to close the game out when the Jazz had cut the lead to ten in the fourth.
For the Jazz, it could have been much worse. They showed that they can hang, but thy also have several talent issues which are likely to restrict them from being able to get past San Antonio and may keep it from being a competitive series. Jazz coach Ty Corbin made a serious error in starting Josh Howard over DeMarre Carroll, who had given the Jazz a serious lift over the past several weeks. Howard came out and badly missed his first two shots, and the stage was set.
The Jazz face an interesting dilemma against San Antonio. Their strength is in their frontcourt, but the Spurs are more than willing to bring double-teams. The Jazz kicked out to shooters but Gordon Hayward and Devin Harris missed open looks on the perimeter. As a result, the Jazz offense stalled. The bigger problem, though, may be that Tim Duncan was able to play Al Jefferson to a standstill, and Paul Millsap didn’t dominate in his matchups versus Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair. Millsap has 20 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks… and it still wasn’t enough. The Jazz honestly have to run all their offense through Millsap to get the pressure off Jefferson and spread the floor.
For San Antonio, just about what you would expect. Tony Parker dominated his matchup against Devin Harris, getting in the lane and hitting soft runners and jumpers, and Manu Ginobili owned Gordon Hayward, getting whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. He made several great plays, dishing over his shoulder to Tim Duncan and getting out in transition for dunks (including one miss, but we won’t talk about that). The Spurs’ perimeter bench attack didn’t even get involved that much outside of Stephen Jackson’s 14.
Basically, the Spurs won in just about every phase of the game. Turns out they’re the better team, funnily enough. Utah showed some things to suggest they might be able to steal one if they can get hot, but the Spurs showed that there is no let up from them against a weaker opponent. It’s just Game 1. But every indication is that there will be no upset this year.
The Spurs are in the space they need to be.