Been there: Spurs' experience, depth key to winning playoffs

Been there: Spurs' experience, depth key to winning playoffs

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SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 29: Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs takes a shot against Al Jefferson #25 of the Utah Jazz in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 29, 2012 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)


by David Flores /

Posted on April 29, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 13 at 7:05 AM

What a difference a year can make.

Ousted by No. 8 seed Memphis in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Spurs made sure to take care of business against another No. 8 seed in their postseason opener Sunday at the AT&T Center.

Tony Parker scored 28 points and passed for eight assists and Tim Duncan had a double-double to help lead the Spurs, seeded No. 1 in the Western Conference for the second consecutive season, to a 106-91 victory against the Utah Jazz.

"It is always very important to start winning because if not, you always fight from behind, so this one was important," said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who scored only seven points but still was a factor in the victory with his pinpoint passing and defense. "We played a good game.

"It was not brilliant, but it was steady and we kept fighting. It took us a while, but we broke it open in the fourth quarter."

The Jazz were down by only eight points with 7:31 left, but the Spurs' playoff experience and depth proved to be too much for the visitors.

The win was the 11th in a row for the Spurs, who finished the lockout-shortened season 50-16 and tied the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the league.

Utah, which didn't secure a playoff berth until beating Phoenix in the next-to-last game of the season, had won five in a row before running into a deep Spurs team determined to atone for last year's disappointing postseason.

Game 2 is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the AT&T Center.

Splitter injury casts pall over win

On a down note for the victors, backup center Tiago Splitter left the game with a sprained left wrist after scoring four points in seven minutes. The severity of the injury was not immediately known.

While it wasn't a masterpiece, the Spurs' victory Sunday was their first in a playoff opener since they beat Phoenix in 2008. San Antonio had lost the opening game in six consecutive series, including last year when it fell to Memphis at the AT&T Center.

The Grizzlies went on to take out the Spurs, who finished the regular season 61-21, in six games.

Parker and Duncan, who finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, ensured the Silver & Black got off to a better start this time.

"I was trying to be aggressive and I wanted to see what they were going to do in the pick-and-rolls," Parker said. "I was trying to set up my teammates and be aggressive after that. Overall we were aggressive. We have to match their (Utah's) energy.

"They're a very physical team and they play with a lot of intensity. It's going to be a war the whole series on the boards. I thought we did a good job of rebounding, especially Stephen Jackson. He was huge at the end of the fourth quarter on the boards."

Jackson hit 2 of 4 shots from 3-point range and finished with 14 points and four rebounds. He also hit all four of his free throws to help the Spurs maintain a double-digit lead in the final four minutes.

Spurs outscore Jazz 58-44 in paint

Jackson, who played on the Spurs' 2003 NBA championship team, was traded by Golden State to San Antonio in March.

"Oh, man, it's the best feeling in the world," Jackson said when asked how it felt to be back in the playoffs. "It's what I live for. It's a blessing to be part of the playoffs again. If you don't get up for this game, you can't get up for any game. I'm just happy to be back here and have a chance to be back in the playoffs."

The Spurs led 28-22 after one quarter, 54-47 at halftime and 85-70 heading into the final period.

Forward Paul Millsap led Utah with 20 points and nine rebounds. Al Jefferson, who scored 16 points, and Derrick Favors finished with nine and eight rebounds, respectively.

The Jazz outrebounded the Spurs 45-39, but hit only 32 of 76 field-goal attempts. San Antonio connected on 40 of 84 shots for 47.6 percent and outscored the Jazz 58-44 in the paint. The 58 inside points scored by the Spurs ranks No. 2 in the franchise's postseason history.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked if the Spurs matched Utah's physical play.

"Probably not," he said. "That's what they do and they're great at it. Those big guys are tough, they're relentless and they've got great timing to go with their will to go get the ball and rebound."

Jazz coach impressed with Spurs' depth

Popovich said it will be critical for the Spurs' big men to get some help from their teammates under the boards as the series progresses.

"I thought in that sense Jack (Jackson) did a great job for us, fighting on the boards and getting some big-time rebounds, because that won't stop," he said. "They're going to do that every game."

Jackson led a bench that outscored the Jazz's backups 44-31.

"They don't just play guys," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "The guys they put on the floor are very efffective in what they are trying to do and they do a great job of executing the offense.

"On defense, they're all aggressive in what they're trying to do. Their rotations are quick and crisp. There's not a lot of guessing on this team. They just react to what you do and try to force you off your spot."

Popovich praised Boris Diaw, who started Game 1 at center and finished with nine points and five rebounds.

"Boris is a high basketball IQ guy and understands the game very well, so it means he passes well, he reads situations well, and he responds to other players well at both ends of the curt," Popovich said. "In that sense, he's helped us."

Spurs vs. Jazz playoff schedule

(Best-of-7 Western Conference first-round series)

Game 1: Spurs 106, Jazz 91

Game 2: At San Antonio, Wednesday, 6 p.m.

Game 3: At Salt Lake City, Utah, Saturday, May 5, 9 p.m.

Game 4: At Salt Lake City, Utah, Monday, May 7, time TBA

*Game 5: At San Antonio,Wednesday, May 9, time TBA

*Game 6: At Salt Lake City, Utah, Friday, May 11, time TBA

* Game 7: At San Antonio, Sunday, May 13, time TBA

* if necessary