29 April 2012
The Utah Jazz entered their first trip to the post season in two years this morning. In the time that transpired between Utah's second round exit in 2010 and now they lost their Hall of Fame head coach, future Hall of Fame point guard and the litany of role players and cornerstones that had surrounded them for the second half of the last decade.
That part of the story has been being told for the last year by local and national sporting press while a team that was predicted to have an utterly disastrous season eked out an playoff berth and forwent a chance to play in this year’s draft lottery. The story has pivoted quickly in the last few days from one of victory and overachievement to impending playoff doom for a Utah Jazz squad that should by all metrics be outplayed and outcoached by a superior and more experienced San Antonio Spurs team
Game 1 followed that script verbatim. Utah held tight for three and a half quarters but could never completely close the game long gap. In the last 6 minutes the Spurs opened the game up wide and it stayed that way. It was obvious enough that the Jazz wouldn't be able to close the gap that Corbin put in parts of the deep bench with two minutes to go. No member of the Jazz that shouldered any significant burden in this game had a positive +/- and the only Jazz men who did the opposite were Ahearn, Burks, Evans and Kanter, none of who saw significant enough time to effect any change. Favors was the flashiest and most exciting defensive player the Jazz had out there today, putting up similar defensive numbers to Jefferson and Millsap in substantially fewer minutes.
To that end, Utah proved the obvious postulate that when your most significant players turn the ball over frequently and are outplayed on both ends of the floor by every lineup your opponent sends out, you lose. There isn't significantly more to say about this game than that.
There are myriad questions that the Utah fan base will be asking of their coach in the next few days, all of which will be rehashed on sports talk radio, Twitter and the spectrum of fan blogs that surround the Jazz ad nausea. Did Corbin insert Howard into the starting lineup for instead of Caroll because of his experience or because he wanted Caroll fresh when Ginobli came in? Did Corbin underuse the recently discovered "big three" and did he wait too long before putting Favors, Millsap and Jefferson on the floor?
The reality is that when you are playing the San Antonio Spurs you are going to get outcoached and outplayed, especially if you are as young and inexperienced as the Utah Jazz are. The questions facing Tyrone Corbin and his squad are legitimate and the answers will be very valuable this offseason as the Jazz make moves to improve but the answers mean very little right now. Utah is playing with house money, there will be no upset and the world will not be shocked. The most the Jazz can ask for from this Playoff run is two nights at ESA with a packed and raucous house and 4 or 5 games worth of incredibly valuable experience for our young wings and bigs.
The fan in me hopes I'm wrong. But the realist knows I'm not.
Here's hoping I look like an idiot sometime around 7 PM this Wednesday.
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