Sunday’s victory versus the Utah Jazz was just what the San Antonio Spurs needed to get the playoffs rolling. They won by 15, but it wasn’t a perfect game.
The one stat which stands out is the 58-44 points in the paint advantage for the Spurs. Much of that is thanks to some stellar play from Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Manu played a great game despite a non-eye popping box score. Outside of Stephen Jackson no other role player had an outstanding game, but no one played terribly. Overall the Spurs probably walked away from this game happy about the win, happy with their play while knowing they can play better and if they play worse this Jazz team is resilient to become a problem.
Before the series started, a lot of people thought the Jazz trio of post players, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors, would give the Spurs fits, particularly if they all played together. We finally got to see that line up in the third quarter and it took the Spurs a grand total of three trips down the court to figure it out. Lots of ball movement and a lot of Tim Duncan isolation plays. Basically the Spurs, as they typically do, had four shooters on the court with Duncan and they shifted to allow him plenty of space to go at Al Jefferson one on one. Because Duncan is such a willing passer, Favors and Millsap had to honor the shooters and couldn’t provide help until Timmy was dunking on someone’s head.
On the defensive side, the Spurs didn’t run in to too many problems from the super sized line up because of their messy floor spacing. Before you get too excited that this is going to repeat itself all series, just know the Jazz have two days to figure out how to make the line up work.
This next part is probably the most encouraging part of Sunday’s game. Despite the size disparity the Spurs were facing, they were only outrebounded by six. That’s pretty good especially when you consider their second best rebounder didn’t play the second half thanks to a sprained wrist. The Spurs had an average shooting night, so let’s assume they’re going to have both better and worse shooting nights than game one. The bad nights will be nullified if they can keep the rebounding battle close (something that may be tough if Tiago Splitter isn’t playing by the time the series shifts to Utah).
The keys remain the same. Be aggressive on the glass and on defense, get in to paint on offense and keep the ball moving. If the Spurs do all of this, they’ll be able to relax and watch the Clippers and Grizzlies for a couple games before round two starts.