Sunday, May 20, 2007

Flawless 1st Half Carries Spurs to Win

West Conf. Finals (Game 1)-- Spurs (3) vs. Jazz (4):
Spurs 108, Jazz 100

- Thought maybe that the Jazz could jump on the Spurs early and take advantage of the quick turnaround from Friday, but it was just the opposite. Spurs came out with a spring in their step and followed thru with a dominating 1st half--they shot 66% in the half, while holding the Jazz to 29%. Spurs' offensive execution was crisp for most of the game with great ball movement-- some sweet back-door cuts. The Jazz defense let the Spurs execute too easily for most of the game (54.3% for the Spurs) & let them produce in the lane way too much (54 paint points for SA). The Spurs pretty much got what they wanted all game while Utah had too many defensive breakdowns to count.

- I think Manu has officially re-found his offensive groove. Came out of the gate on fire with jumpers, one-handed floaters, & straight finishes in the lane--Manu had another superb all-around game with 23 (9/14), 10 assists & 4 rebs. Also, his vastly underrated passing skills were on display for the entire game (always felt Manu's passing goes underappreciated, might be the best pure passing SG in the NBA). He often hooked up with his Argentine partner, Oberto, who displayed his wonderful knack for getting lost in the open space (very few bigs do it better than Fab). Said the Spurs needed better production from their center spot in this series, and Oberto was huge overall--14 pts (6/8), 7 rbs & pretty solid job checking Boozer.

- Parker came out very aggressive looking to attack the rim and he found his way to the foul line often, though he was only 5/10 from the stripe. Duncan did basically anything he wanted, and it's clear the Jazz don't have a good matchup for him & will need to shuttle extra defenders his way more often. Timmy mixed his patented banker usually coming off of spins baseline with plenty of lay-ins off of feeds--Tim had 27 (9/15), 10 rebs, 5 assts & 2 blks. Liked how Pop moved Duncan away from the block a lot, and it opened up paint for some nice cutting & passing lanes; Oberto definitely took advantage of this.

- The Spurs' defense was its usual clinical self in Game 1, barring a few rough patches in the 4th. When you force 50 missed shots, you're usually in good shape--the Jazz shot 42% overall. Spurs played more zone than I can ever remember & the zone was highly succesful taking the Jazz out of their comfort zone in the 1st half, especially in the 2nd quarter. The Jazz were having a tough time getting looks in the painted area, and were not helping themselves by clanking their outside shots (16 pts in the 2nd quarter). Not really sure why Pop did not switch back to the zone in the 4th when Deron & Co. were starting to find success with pick/rolls. Also, Deron was doing his damage on Parker while Bowen played him very effectively in the 1st half, so I'm curious why Bowen was not switched back onto Deron.

- Mentioned in the series preview the Jazz had the advantage on the boards, but didn't think the Spurs would let it get this out of hand--Jazz were +15 on the boards. Give credit to the Spurs for causing a lot of misses, but they still did a terrible job protecting their def. boards-- Spurs had a 54% Def. Reb Pct., about 20% points lower than it should. Boozer led the way with 6 off. boards, 12 total. Rookie Paul Millsap continued to be a force on the offensive glass (4) in limited minutes.

-Basically the only reason for the Jazz sticking around until their offense found some rhythm in the 4th, was because of off. boards & the Spurs' poor foul shooting--the Spurs shot 27/40 (68%) from the stripe. The good news for Utah is that they could possibly take advantage of these factors thru-out the series. Utah is a great off. reb team & putting their opponent on the free throw line is a main component of their def. philosophy.

- Deron Williams was a one-man gang keeping the Jazz alive offensively in the 2nd half. He really took off in the 4th where the Spurs were having a hard time containing the side pick & rolls--Deron had 18 & 5 assts in the quarter. The 2nd-year player is already a master at using screens and was hitting some of his patented step-back Js while also mixing in some close-in finishes. Deron probably had the best game of his short career with 34, 9 assts, 7 rbs & only 1 TO.

-Boozer was having a rough go of it for most of the game saddled with some foul trouble & finding it hard to carve out space vs. the packed-in Spurs' defense. But in the 2nd half, he started to rely on his mid-range jumper more & it open up the game for the Jazz (Booze scored 16 of his 20 in the 2nd half). But Utah got very little input from the rest of their starting lineup. Specifically Memo had a rough day not being able to connect on a bunch of open looks--Okur was 3/15 for 10 pts. Thought we'd see Araujo in limited minutes in this series, and he actually was pretty useful today. Did a solid job vs. Duncan, way better than Collins did, and picked up a few boards in roughly 10 minutes. Think we'll see a little more of the Brazilian Bruiser.

- Will see if the Jazz decide to send hard doubles onto Duncan in Game 2; rarely did it today. Also, they have to put the clamps down on all the wide open driving lanes that Manu & Parker had a field day with. Liked to see Sloan try to post Harpring a little more because none of the Spurs wing defenders can handle him working on the baseline. The one area that the Spurs have to concern themselves with is their def. boards. As well as the Spurs played, I'm sure Pop let his squad know that they need to do a better job on the boards.


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