Hello Defense My Old Friend
And like that, we’re into the second round.
Barring the last 5 minutes of the game, in which the Jazz made one last in-the-throes-of-defeat comeback, I was very impressed by what I saw in the series. I expected the series to go 5, the Spurs swept; I expected the Jazz to give the Spurs lots of trouble and play close games, and they really didn’t. For the most part, the Spurs dictated play on both ends of the court and were never in jeopardy of losing any game.
A few impressions as the team awaits the winner of the Grizzlies-Clippers series:
— We all know the bench is a major strength of the team, but my, oh my, was that evident in this series. The bench scored over 40 points in each game and thoroughly dominated the Jazz bench in each game. Game 4 was won in two big spurts by the bench, spanning the 1st and 2nd quarter and then again in the 3rd and 4th quarters, giving the team the working margin to withstand the Jazz comebacks. The Jazz started the game with the “Big” line-up, which helped the starters not get blown out…but it also weakened the bench, allowing the big runs. Conventional wisdom dictates that you can’t go 10 to 11 deep and win the championship…but the way this team is playing, it’d be silly not to go 10 deep at least.
— The offense is still humming along, but the defense is really impressing. Barring the first quarter of Game 3, over the last 7 quarters the Jazz have scored 143 points, or about 20 points per quarter. And that’s counting the big run the Jazz had to end the game. The rotations are strong, the close outs are good, and the rebounding is solid (though the numbers might not show it, given the great offensive rebounding the Jazz have). Let’s hope this continues.
— Speaking of defense, Duncan’s post defense against Jefferson was a work of art. We talk a lot about Ginobili’s injury last year against Memphis. But could Duncan playing at significantly less than 100% against Randolph and Gasol have also played a significant role? I love what Duncan is giving on both ends of the floor right now.
— Manu Ginobili got his shooting stroke going in this game, which was nice to see. I’m still worried that we’re seeing a bit too much of “scary Ginboili”, and not enough of “scary good Ginobili”. I feel like he’s still pressing a bit too much. That being said, does anyone doubt that he’ll be there when we need him? Didn’t think so.
— Parker had a very poor game (for him), Ginobili had a good but not great game, ditto Duncan…and we were still ahead by 21 in the middle of the 4th quarter. That should be scary for the rest of the Western conference.
— I really like Utah’s team going forward. Especially Favors. He is frightening to go up against. If he can develop just a small post game, he’ll be a beast for years to come.
— The playoffs are a totally different animal, of course…but think about this: to beat a team in the playoffs, you must win 4 games against them. Including the playoffs, the Spurs have taken 32 games to lose 4, dating back to March 9th against the Clippers. In two months they’ve only lost 4 games, posting a gaudy 28-4 record. Two of those losses–March 9th against the Clippers, and April 9th against these same Jazz–didn’t include at least one of the Big 3 (Parker did not play against the Clippers, nobody played against the Jazz). So it’s taken 2 months to beat this team 4 times–and not always at full strength–and now a team has to do it in less than 2 weeks in a series. In 7 games.
— Clippers or Grizzlies…Clippers or Grizzlies…Clippers or Grizzlies…? At this point, I’m ready for either. Both present unique match-ups and problems, but I think both are imminently beatable. Especially if they continue to beat each other up in their first round series. For now, enjoy watching their series (hopefully) go long and enjoy the rest.
Go Spurs Go.
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