Devin Harris and Al Jefferson finally came to play for the Jazz, but Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs still got the win and increased their series lead to 3-0 with a 102-90 win in Utah yesterday. Parker took over in the fourth quarter and finished off a desperate Utah side that was down by only five with about eight minutes to play. The Utah crowd was looking for any signs of hope in their matchup with the number one seed in the West, but Parker and the Spurs’ execution in the game’s final quarter dispelled any hope the Jazz had in staying competitive in the series.
Parker had 27 points, Tim Duncan had 17 and Daniel Green pitched in 14 while Stephen Jackson contributed 13 off the bench. Tiago Splitter had 10 points and 8 rebounds after missing Game 2 with a bruised wrist. Al Jefferson finally had a great game with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but Paul Millsap had another poor offensive outing with just nine points. Devin Harris also had a much better offensive night with 21 points and five assists, but Gordon Hayward finished with only four points. Going up against an offensive juggernaut like the Spurs, the Jazz needed to be able to score in bunches to stay competitive, which is why Hayward and Millsap’s performances were especially devastating. Now San Antonio will likely get the sweep unless we see a near-perfect game from Utah’s starters, and if the Jazz do get a Game 4 win at home, Popovich and company will finish them off in Game 5 in San Antonio.
What is especially concerning for other contending teams in the West is that the Spurs have been steamrolling opponents and Manu Ginobili hasn’t even had a significant impact on the offensive end yet. Ginobili had six points but he also had 10 assists, which shows that he doesn’t need to score to be happy. As long as he’s contributing and helping his team win, he’s good to go. The thought of a team full of role players all satisfied with their assignments that plays well together and is coached by Gregg Popovich is a pretty intimidating concept, and Ginobili’s lack of scoring is just one example of that. Popovich’s coaching was also on fully display, including a beautifully drawn-up play right before halftime that ended in a Matt Bonner 3-pointer, giving the Spurs the lead and effectively crushing any momentum the Jazz might have had going into the half with a lead.
Jazz fans can only be so upset about the possibility of being swept in the first round. This is a young team with a promising future that had the unlucky task of facing the top team in the West right off the bat. Jefferson, Millsap, Harris and Hayward are a decent core that needs to learn how to show up night in and night out, but it’s a start. Utah will also need to build up their supporting cast to get more out of their bench in the future (even with Derrick Favors and Alec Burks combining for 26 points in Game 3). Utah hasn’t played extremely well in the series, but they need some time to develop before people start taking them seriously. But even though the chance of being swept by this impressive Spurs team is pretty good right now, Utah fans can look forward to a pretty optimistic future.