The script had some last-minute rewrites but in the end, the story remained the same.
The Jazz came into tonight’s game fighting for their playoff lives, needing a win to avoid elimination. Really, it would have delayed the inevitable but winning a game to avoid getting swept would have been nice. The players said all the right things before the game, talking about needing to lay it all on the line and having nothing to lose. There was, of course, another round of praise for the Spurs as well. Is anyone else getting tired of hearing constantly how amazing the Spurs are? Listen, we get it, they’re the #1 seed for a reason. 4-time champs, yes, yes, we know. But there’s respecting your opponent and being in awe of them. It’s not just the players, I keep hearing it constantly from the media too. We get it.
Before the recap, Matt Harpring had some interesting things to say about the over-praising of the Spurs on Twitter. I’ll condense 4 tweets he did into one long quote, leaving the punctuation as is. Oh, Harpring is @mharpring15 on Twitter.
Who else is sick of hearing how good the spurs are.. way to much respect is being given
Players should always feel they can win. If they don’t, give someone else a chance who thinks they can
When I played respect is always needed. However, you better believe that win or lose, you’ll know I guarded you when you wake up in morning
On hearing jazz think they have nothing to loose? I think they have everything to lose. Lose respect, its hard to get it back!
With that, the game.
The game started by picking up where the other 3 left off, with the Spurs kicking the Jazz’s behinds. They sure know how to take a fired up home crowd out of a playoff game fast. Spurs led 11-4 at the first timeout. After the break, the game actually began for the Jazz. They played with the energy and execution that was lacking for the first 5 minutes, storming back to take the lead briefly at 16-15. With both teams starting the game off with their own runs, they both settled into offensive ineptitude to finish the quarter. San Antonio led at the end of the 1st 22-19 and it felt like Utah did play pretty hard. It’s discouraging when a solid effort still can’t get you to win the quarter. Both teams shot just under 40%.
The 2nd unit simply cannot score. It has been a problem this entire series. This became quite evident in the 2nd quarter. In Game 3, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors shouldered the load but tonight Burks can’t find the basket (he finished 0/7) and nobody is picking up the slack. Favors is solid but not spectacular offensively, he’s more of a force on the glass and with his defense so far. Hey, here’s a friendly note to the Jazz: leaving Matt Bonner open in the corner is always a bad idea. Everybody knows this except for the Jazz it seems. It was fascinating in this game that Gregg Popovich would call a timeout when the Jazz even showed a hint of gaining momentum. In the 2nd quarter, he called one after a mere 4-0 run by the Jazz. Yes, 4-0. Also, I should address the officiating and now’s a good time for it since I made a note of it late in the 2nd quarter as my frustration grew. I really do try not to use the crutch of complaining about the officials but in such a big game it is starting to feel like it’s 5 vs 8. Yes, you only notice the calls that don’t benefit the team you’re rooting for but it seemed really bad tonight. It’s frustrating. Jazz were struggling with their shot, they didn’t need this too. Spurs led 50-42 at the half.
The 3rd quarter started off badly for Utah. San Antonio built the lead to 13 on really poor shooting from the home team. They showed some life as the quarter progressed but the energy was slowly being sapped from EnergySolutions Arena as the game progressed. I went to the game with my sister, her husband, and their two kids, who I’ve all taken to games this year, when I suggested we get some cheap tickets through FlashSeats. (Side Note: Check out Flash Seats if you haven’t yet, it’s a great service and sometimes can find some steals.) Anyway, I was getting frustrated that the Jazz were going out like this, which leads me to the notes on the 4th quarter. When the 3rd quarter ended I wondered in my notes who was going to step up for the Jazz and how they would respond to getting punched in the teeth by SAS, they trailed 58-68 at the end of 3 but it felt like more.
How did they respond? By going 5 minutes without scoring a point. I typed into my notes that the Jazz season is going to end on a whimper. I sprinkled in some profanities since I was frustrated but a few hours later typing this up, they are no longer necessary. With 5:26 left in the game the score was 64-81 and the only note I made about the game during the break was one word: bleh. That’s when things got interesting. Popovich figured the Jazz had given up, and I was inclined to agree, because after the timeout he emptied his bench. The Jazz starters took the opportunity to finally come alive, scoring a quick 4 points to trim the lead to 13. Pop immediately subbed back Duncan, Ginobli, and Jackson followed by Parker a possession later, not taking any chances. However, this wasn’t enough. The Jazz dug deep and fought hard, chipping away at the deficit little by little. After the game seemed lost and the arena felt lifeless, both the team and crowd came roaring back for the final 5 minutes. With a minute left, the lead even got cut to 4 before a SAS steal led to an easy layup, putting the lead back to 6. Two missed free throws later and the rally was over but it was really exciting. If the Jazz had pulled it off, and it was close, it would have been the greatest comeback in Jazz history.
The comeback failed but I’m glad the Jazz didn’t give up. They kept fighting even when shots weren’t falling. Both teams shot under 40% for the game and while some players struggled, the team kept playing hard. That’s all you can ask for when matched against a clearly superior opponent. Hopefully the young guys learned from seeing such a dominant team and they can grow from this. Getting swept sucks but the future seems bright.
Going forward, JAmes and I collaborated on season award so we’ll get that up soon. We’ll find other things to post on Jazz related and keep checking out his excellent recaps for each day of the playoffs. Most immediately, there will be the Draft Lottery to look for, I’ll fill you all in on what to look for in regards to Utah possibly getting the GSW pick when it gets closer. It’s been a fun ride this year and the Jazz overachieved, making the playoffs when many predicted them to finish last in the West or even the NBA. Enjoy the rest of the playoffs, even without the Jazz. The Bulls look like they’re done so if the Lakers can get bounced, Jazz fans can rest a little easier knowing our two most hated teams (or am I projecting?) are out.