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Saturday, April 28th, 2012 at 3:08 pm  |  26 responses

Spurs-Jazz Series Preview

Another first-round upset on the horizon?

by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup

The past couple of years have hosted some great 1 vs 8 seed matchups. From the Warriors-Mavericks upset in 2007 to last year’s Grizzlies-Spurs matchup, each first-round victory has become must-see TV.

The Spurs have been dominant this year, finishing the regular season with a 50-16 record. They bolstered the bench by acquiring Stephen Jackson, and allowing Manu Ginobili to slowly nurse himself back to health from a broken hand early in the season.

The Jazz have been one of the surprises of the season, combining young talents like Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors with seasoned vets Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. The Jazz have been great at home this year as well, at 25-8.

Look out in this series for many adjustments, great play execution and out-of-timeout plays. I can see many of these games going down to the wire.

Point Guard: Tony Parker vs Devin Harris

This is probably the most interesting matchups of the series. Tony Parker is having an MVP-caliber season for the Spurs. His speed and relentless attacking of the rim are hard to stop with the shooters Pop has surrounded him with. With most point guards on an island defensively, Parker has capitalized this year. Devin Harris has been one of the most unpredictable players this year. In the first half of the year, he looked disinterested and seemed as if he was going through the motions. In the second half, he improved across the board in all categories. A former All-Star himself, Devin is a force when locked in. For Jazz fans, only time will tell which mindset he is in.

Advantage: Spurs

Shooting Guard: Danny Green vs Gordon Hayward

Danny Green is finding comfort in his new role as the starting shooting guard for the Spurs. He usually benefits most when teams lag off him to help stop Parker. Danny possesses a smooth stroke from behind the arc. Gordon Hayward is growing as a player each and every night. As the Jazz have increased his minutes and shots, he has found his game this year. In the second half of the season, he posted lines of 14 points, 4 boards and close to 50 percent from the field. The X-factor to his game is the free-throw attempts, which are close to 5 per with him shooting 86 percent.

Advantage: Jazz

Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard vs DeMarre Carroll

Leonard is an athletic forward who has benefited from the trade of Richard Jefferson to the Warriors. He is still finding his game on offense, but on defense, he has played great in Pop’s system. Carroll’s game is very similar—a glue guy. He’s going to start the game out with energy, defend and rebound.

Advantage: Spurs

Power Forward: Tim Duncan vs Paul Millsap

Despite his limited minutes this year (28 per game), Timmy D has been very efficient, posting a stat line of 15 points, 9 rebounds and close to 2 blocks per. The idea was to keep his legs fresh for the Playoffs. Paul Millsap has developed into quite the player. He is extremely efficient—shooting close to 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line—which, for a big man, is amazing. The close to 2 steals and a block per game is a testament to his defense; he has active hands and gives his all every possession. His greatest off-season improvement has been his ball handling; he has shown so much improvement that the Jazz run him sometimes at small forward. If Tim is he is hitting shots, and the former League MVP is forced to leave the comforts of the paint, it could lead to trouble.

Advantage: Jazz

Center: DeJuan Blair vs Al Jefferson

Blair is a solid post player for the spurs. He has a nice touch in the post but is limited due to his lack of size (he stands at 6-6 on a good day and 270 after a light lunch) in regards to rebounding. He is the perfect example of what my old high school coach would call a “land dweller” with “heavy legs.” Al Jefferson may be one of the biggest All-Star Game snubs of the year. He has regained his form, pre-knee injury, and is posting close to 20 points and 10 rebounds per, while shooting close to 50 percent from the field. I cannot see how Blair will be able to stop him from getting on both sides of the floor.

Advantage: Jazz

Bench: Spurs vs Jazz

The Spurs have the best bench in basketball. Crafty veterans Stephen Jackson and Manu Ginobili wreak havoc on opposing second units. Utah has been using its second unit to ease young players into the NBA, with guys like Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. Utah uses a guard rotation of Jamaal Tinsley and CJ Miles to give them a veteran presence.

Advantage: Spurs

Coach: Gregg Popovich vs Tyrone Corbin

Pop is one of the elite coaches in the game. Few have been able to make the game-by-game adjustments as smoothly as he does. What amazes me about Pop is how he always has his players in position on out-of-timeout plays as well as on both sides of the ball. Corbin has done a great job in his first full year running the Jazz. He has kept the blueprint of the Jazz intact in regards to great execution of the half-court offense.

Advantage: Spurs

Prediction: The Spurs’ style of play—the grind it out half-court game—is actually very similar to the Jazz. The Jazz are at their worst when they play a team that likes to run and score a lot in transition, which the Spurs don’t look too much. The Spurs have the Playoff experience and roster depth to compete with any team, but they lack in one huge area: size.

Outside of Duncan, the rest of the team is quite small in the frontcourt. Utah on the other hand, is one of the biggest teams in the postseason, with a front line of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. The fact that they are extremely efficient big men from the free-throw line also can mean a lot of trouble from San Antonio.

We also should acknowledge that traditionally Utah is considered one of the harder teams to beat at home (25-8 this year), and if the Jazz can protect home, I can see another first-round upset on the horizon.

Jazz Win 4-3.

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  • Spurs

    Duncan and millsap a push? Cmon. Spurs may not have the size but they are winning this in 6 or 7.

  • Michael

    do this guy watch the Spurs? Spurs aren’t a “half-court grind it out offense” anymore. geez where has this guy been? btw. Duncan > Milsap

  • spurs4life

    1 word: GINOBLIIIIIII

  • IL Mago

    Worst series preview

  • Sarah

    LOL at Spurs don’t look to run much and half-court grind it out style of play. Please don’t write a preview for a team if you don’t actually watch them. I quit.

  • whooo!

    Someone who actually watches the spurs shoulda done the preview. You lost all credibility when you said they’re a grind it out team this year. I almost expected you to add that they’re defense first, old, and boring while you’re at it with the lazy, lack of journalism. Did you see the season series? At least do some hw to make a good case, cuz this bs might fly on other sites, but slam readers know basketball.

  • dave

    The matchup is Duncan vs Jefferson, and Blair vs Millsap, and the offense isn’t grind it out, as others have mentioned. Finally, why would you make such a big deal about the Jazz home record, when the Spurs home record is even better (28-5)?

  • TeeD

    Wow. Are you kidding? Agree with the people above. Also, if we’re talking about home court, the Spurs have HCA, and as dave has pointed out, they are 28-5 at home…. Also, SAS doesn’t foul much. Another thing, Ginobili is the main SG isn’t he, so why is it Green vs Hayward? So many things wrong with this article.

  • RKJ92

    Whoever wrote this is legit the dumbest person I have seen in quite some time… you the same person who wrote the Knicks & Heat article too? Retard..

  • http://www.yahoo.com The Fury

    The San Antonio Salems — because they always get slept on. I’m predicting that the spurs will sweep this series. They only lost to this Jazz team when Manu, TP and Duncan didn’t suit up and it was a close game.

  • CDaTyrant

    SMH SLAM…hire some new writers n pull the brooms out while your at it, but make sure they’re black n silver.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    This is crazy. Writer has been living under a rock yo. SweeeeeEp

  • Zabbah

    Slam, you guys screwed this one. Barely anything this dude wrote is right.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    I laugh hard at this review…and even harder at the comments section: Nothing to bring you back to earth like a learned audience. Spurs will not be beaten in round 1.

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    smh.

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    BOTH teams play uptempo….
    .
    The Spurs being the second highest scoring, most efficient offense in the NBA.

  • Drig

    People don’t hold back here I see……

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJcN_4-3J8Y Datkid

    This article is hilarious. seriously who writes these? first of all click my name to see how “land dwelling” dejuan blair is. 2nd both these teams are uptempo now. third why didn’t you mention that the jazz DESTROY people when the go big w/ millsap at the 3, favors at the 4 and Al Jefferson at the 5? Jazz IMO have the size to win this series and I think they might.

  • greg

    the writer really got lit up on this one. someone clearly drew the wrong stick when they were deciding who writes this one. duncan v jefferson is the center matchup which will be really fun to watch because ive always thought jefferson would be unstoppable in the playoffs because you cant single cover him and hes a good ft shooter. but the spurs do have batman so i give it to them

  • Sarah

    Honestly you only needed to pay attention for the last two weeks of the season to know that Pop will likely start Diaw or Splitter (both of whom the author seems not to realize even exist) instead of Blair this series. You can still give Jefferson the edge there but it’s a much different matchup. Especially if Tim takes shifts on the big guy. Fact is the Jazz are a tough team and I’m not debating the possibility that they could win, but to predict it for the reasons listed (someone else already mentioned the asininity of mentioning that the Jazz are tough to beat at home when the Spurs have an even more formidable home record and the home court advantage) made for an underwhelming “series preview.”

  • chris

    @datkid, showing a dunk from an all-star game, one dunk does not mean hes an explosive player. A more valid point wouldve been to say he averages a large amount of his points via dunk.

    @sarah good point, but you have to consider the spurs (like the jazz) rotate their starting lineup alot, your point of Diaw or Splitter starting was a roll of the dice, may start game one and may not start another. He doesn’t care who starts, when the mins will be allocated the same regardless.

  • Sarah

    No, Coach Pop has been working toward benching Blair against teams with a lot of size for a while, especially visible in the last couple games against the Lakers. If Tiago doesn’t hurt his wrist today, Blair sees no time of any consequence. But it’s true that Pop played a deep bench and rotated guys often as has been his MO all year.

  • spurs4life

    GO SPURS!!!!

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJcN_4-3J8Y Datkid

    i just said he’s not a “land dweller” chris. but the fact that he can do that with no ACL’s means that yes, he is.

  • Zabbah

    I bet this writer is realizing how stupid he looks.

  • Zabbah

    Spurs sweep Jazz. Slam nailed another preview.

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