Czar’s Playoff Preview: Spurs vs. Jazz Game 3

The 4X NBA champion San Antonio Spurs come to ‘The Crossroads of The West’ to take on the Utah Jazz in Game 3. Tonight’s contest is a must-win for the Jazz , who return home down 0-2 in this first round series.

The Spurs have dominated the 1-versus-8 matchup so far. In Game 1, 2012 COTY Gregg Popovich’s guys beat the Jazz handily 106-91. On Wednesday in Game 2, Utah was obliterated by a Spurs’ onslaught, 114-83.

San Antonio had seven players score in double digits, and none of their starters played more than 28 minutes in the rout. Tim Duncan had 13 boards, and Tony Parker dished out 9 dimes.

The Spurs exhibited why they are the deepest, most balanced team in the league, and they executed with a surgeon’s precision. The Alamo Boys shot 57% from the field, 46% from behind the arc and 100% at the free throw line.

On the opposing bench, coach Tyrone Corbin’s squad looked overmatched from the get-go. They trailed 28-17 after the first quarter and 53-28 at the half. Utah’s big guns Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap shot a combined 9 for 26 and got to the charity stripe a measly two times total.

Usually solid PG Devin Harris was once again outplayed by his lead guard foe Parker. Harris was limited to 5 points and 1 assist, and he was unable to contain Parker’s dribble penetration. Corbin was forced to go to his bench for production. The seven subs scored 41 points and out-rebounded the Utah starters, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

San Antonio knows that Game 3 will be a tough 48 minutes in front of the spirited Jazz home crowd that boosted Utah to an impressive 25-8 in Salt Lake City this past season. The Jazz beat SA 91-84 in the last of their four regular season meetings on April 9th in SLC. Devin Harris had 25 points in the game.

However, that victory in the Beehive State came with a caveat – the triumvirate of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili all set out in order to rest for the playoff push. Regardless of the circumstances, a win is a win in the NBA, and it may have given Utah a small seed of confidence to carry onto the court tonight when they have their backs against the wall.

Look for the Jazz to give maximum effort and intensity in Game 3 to avoid the dreaded, inescapable hole of 0-3. Tune in to TNT at 10:00 PM ET to see if the Jazz can stop the Spurs juggernaut and get back in this series.

Czar’s Playoff Preview: Jazz vs. Spurs Game 2

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe last time the league had a shortened regular season in 1998-1999, the San Antonio Spurs won their first of four championships. To the surprise of many who counted the aging squad out of the title hunt this season, the Spurs rank among the frontrunners in the playoff picture once again. On Tuesday Gregg Popovich was honored with the NBA’s 2012 Coach of the Year Award after leading San Antonio to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with 50 wins.

The Utah Jazz are the first of four hurdles separating the Spurs from their fifth NBA title. The Spurs went 3-1 against the Jazz during the regular season, and they won the first game of this series easily 106-91. Counting Game 1 of this opening round playoff series, the top-seeded Spurs are on an 11-game winning streak. They are a powerful 29-5 in the Alamo City this season, best home record in the Western Conference. Pop’s squad also finished second in the NBA in point differential at +7.2 this year.

So do the Jazz stand a chance against the Spurs in this series? Well, as the Spurs know all too well, anything can happen in the playoffs. Last year the Spurs were dismissed by the underrated Grizzlies in Game 6. The Jazz, led by ferocious big man Al Jefferson, are a capable group and would love to steal Game 2 tonight at the AT&T Center. Big Al had 16 and 9 in Sunday’s loss. His frontcourt mate Paul Millsap went for 20 and 9 in the series’ first 48. Utah got to the charity strip 30 times, had 13 offensive boards and got decent scoring production from their bench – 31 points. However, the Jazz committed 16 turnovers and shot a pedestrian 42% from the floor.

To take down the well-oiled Spurs, Utah will have to take better care of the ball and create higher percentage shots for the right shooters. In addition, starting PG Devin Harris will need to have more than two assists, and 9th-year veteran starting 3-man Josh Howard (just back from knee surgery) has to score. In Game 1 the former Maverick had zero points.

On the other end, the Jazz must do a better job of containing MVP-candidate PG Tony Parker. The zippy, slashing Parker had 28 points and 8 dimes on Sunday. More importantly, he got into the lane at will and allowed his disciplined teammates to set up for high percentage shot attempts. Playing fast, but always in control, Parker dominated the action was the definition of a floor general. Future HOF’er and 4X champ Tim Duncan had a been-there-done-that double double with 17 points, 11 boards and 5 dimes.

Tune in to TNT tonight at 7:00 PM ET to see if the Jazz can even this first-round series before heading back to Utah.

From the Booth

Mike Fratello and Ian Eagle recap the Nets’ 105-84 loss to the Utah Jazz.

From the Booth

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From the Booth

Mike Fratello and Ryan Ruocco break down the Nets’ poor performance following Saturday’s 107-94 loss to the Utah Jazz.