The easy narrative for this game is that Tony Parker’s 28 points and 8 assists carried the day, but there’s a lot more going on here than that. In spite of winning this game by 15 points and generally doing what they wanted offensively, I really thought the Spurs did not play all that well. Parker hitting a lot of shots and generally being awesome masked a pretty mediocre game today.
I blame rust. The Big 3 had not played a meaningful game in a week and had not played a heavily contested game in longer than that. The first six minutes of the game looked like a team that was just a bit out of sync and trying to find a rhythm again. By the end of the 3rd quarter, they began to look like the Spurs of two weeks ago again.
Song of the Game: John Coltrane, “A Love Supreme: Acknowledgement”
Playing Utah again provides me more opportunities to tune into my small jazz collection. From A Love Supreme in 1964, this is perhaps Coltrane’s most difficult work for non-jazz fans to get their arms around, in spite of its wide-ranging popularity as one of the best jazz albums of all time. It’s meant to be engaging, but not in a catchy kind of way. It’s essentially a spiritual praise album and it’s meant to be experienced in its entirety, front to back, without interruption. When I first listened to it, I found it nothing like the Coltrane I had grown to love, the one that recorded Blue Train and Ole Coltrane. But as I have continued to listen to it over the years, it has grown on me in ways few other albums have. Simply put, it is a transcendent work, but like other transcendent works, it needs to be experienced in the way the artist intended. This is not background jazz – put on your headphones and lose yourself in this album for an hour or so. You won’t regret the experience.
Stats of the Game:
-6: The Spurs rebounding deficit for the game. The only reason the Jazz stayed as close as they did, with Tony having a great game, was the rebounding factor. The Spurs were outrebounded in the 3rd quarter 12-5, but in spite of that, outscored the Jazz by 8. The Jazz also had 13 offensive rebounds, but could not take advantage with only 5 second chance points. This is something significant to watch for Game 2. 13 offensive boards will likely net a lot more than 5 points in future games. The Spurs must do a better job on the glass.
+14: The Spurs advantage on points in the paint. A fair number of these were Parker lay-ups and floaters and Duncan dunks, but the Spurs pushed into the lane, unafraid of Utah’s size around the rim. The plan to deal with a big team is a heavy dose of pick-and-roll and creating situations where Jazz defenders have to choose who to guard. I expect Game 2 may be a heavy 3-point game for the Spurs as the Jazz may try to pack the paint to prevent Tony’s drives.
47.6% / 42.1%: The Spurs and Jazz shooting percentages respectively. For the Spurs, that’s a good number, but the team missed a number of normally made shots that would have put that number higher (Tiago missed an uncontested layup, as did Boris and Manu flubbed a dunk; Tony and Tim had several bunnies hat rimmed out). For the Jazz, they were horrendous from 3 (4-13, 30.8%) and really horrendous from midrange (6-24, 25%). Yes, the Jazz only had 10 made baskets outside the paint for the game. I don’t expect that to happen again, but it certainly shows that, other than offensive rebounds / putbacks, the Jazz took a lot of the low-percentage shots the Spurs want them to take.
+12: Boris Diaw’s +/- numbers for the game, 4th on the team behind Tim and Manu (+17 each) and Parker (+13). He started this game at PF/C (Pop made a joke before the game about Timmy starting at center “like he had for the past 15 years”) and I thought the offense was poor in that 1st quarter. But not because of Boris, because of rust. The defense, on the other hand, was solid. I thought Diaw played a really nice game and may be starting for a long time. He’s a good defender, an exceptional passer, and is beginning to understand where and when he needs to score for this team. I’m calling it now: your starting lineup for the season opener in November 2012 is Parker-Green-Leonard-Diaw-Duncan.
25-40: The Spurs assist-baskets number, a ratio of 62.5% assisted baskets. I like it a lot when this ratio is around 60%; lower than that it means the ball is not moving enough and higher than that means there were fewer easy, transition baskets (other than the Timmy-to-Manu full-court pass variety, like we saw today). Speaking of transition baskets….
23 to 16: The Jazz outscored the Spurs in transition. Go back and reread that sentence again. I’ll wait. I can almost guarantee that and the rebounding numbers will be the two stats Pop hammers on before Wednesday.
7-2-5: Devin Harris’ points, assists, and turnovers. In short, he was terrible.
Trending Up (the non-obvious edition):
Manu played a great complementary game, which is more often the case with him these days. He couldn’t find the basket, but had 4 assists (three of them were fantastic) and played great ball-denial defense on Gordon Hayward.
Captain Jack was solid. He shot well and brought some defensive intensity to the game as well. With his size and length, he can guard a Paul Millsap without having to lose shooting on the offensive end.
Pop did a great job managing minutes. Tim (31) and Tony (36) were the only players over 30 minutes, but 10 guys played at least 9 minutes. I think the answer to the question “Will Pop shorten the bench?” is a firm no, at least for right now.
The Jazz guards. Harris, Hayward, and Howard, in some combo, were the primary backcourt for the Jazz (with some minutes at point from Jamaal Tinsley) and the three were -14, -17, and -9 respectively.
Tiago Splitter got a wrist injury in the first half, which limited his minutes and allowed Blair to play some in the second half. Two things: first, we have to hope this injury is not severe; and second, if DJB is your bench-depth big, you’re a pretty good team.
Each game of a playoff series is its own world and no two games play out the same way. But it’s safe to say in this series that if San Antonio’s bigs can better protect the glass and if the Spurs limit Utah’s transition baskets, this will be a short series. I expect a better Spurs team to come out in Game 2 on Wednesday.