How the Spurs upset the Jazz

I’ll admit I was a little tongue and cheek with the title. A better one could have perhaps been: “How the Spurs made the Jazz upset.” Three games into the series the Spurs already had the Jazz waving the white flag. The Spurs were one of two teams to win 50 games in the shortened season. Chicago has been decimated by injuries to two of its top players giving the 76ers hope. The Jazz were not as lucky. Let’s run down what happened.

The Spurs showed no weakness

2012 San Antonio Spurs Playoffs Round 1 Totals
Player Pos G MP WP48 WP PoP/48 PoP/G
Tony Parker 1.0 4 131.1 0.253 0.69 4.8 3.3
Tim Duncan 4.5 4 120.5 0.235 0.59 4.2 2.7
Boris Diaw 4.5 4 96.3 0.227 0.46 4.0 2.0
Stephen Jackson 2.7 4 97.8 0.206 0.42 3.3 1.7
Kawhi Leonard 2.5 4 79.8 0.236 0.39 4.3 1.8
Danny Green 2.4 4 98.1 0.178 0.36 2.5 1.3
Gary Neal 1.2 4 52.4 0.270 0.30 5.3 1.5
DeJuan Blair 4.8 4 46.2 0.256 0.25 4.9 1.2
Manu Ginobili 2.5 4 98.7 0.101 0.21 0.0 0.0
Matt Bonner 4.0 4 64.5 0.137 0.18 1.2 0.4
Patty Mills 1.0 3 16.6 0.445 0.15 10.8 1.2
Tiago Splitter 5.0 3 45.7 0.086 0.08 -0.4 -0.1
James Anderson 2.5 4 12.3 -0.055 -0.01 -4.8 -0.3

The Tony Parker and Tim Duncan of old returned. In their last title run the Spurs were a three-headed beast consisting of Parker, Duncan and Ginobili. Ginobili’s first round was below his norms but the Spurs didn’t mind as they had the true Rookie of the Year Kawhi Leonard to hold up their backcourt. Leaving Charlotte has done wonders for Diaw and he played like a star against lesser competition.

The truly scary thing about the Spurs was their lack of weaknesses. Only two players played below average — Tiago Splitter and James Anderson — and they combined for less that 60 minutes played! The other thing is that heading into the playoffs this was the norm. In the last month of the regular season only Anderson, Jackson, Bonner and Cory Joseph played below average. Only Cory Joseph played truly poorly and he did not suit up for the playoffs. Jackson and Bonner picked it up and James Anderson only played limited minutes.

I have to give a shout out to the ultimate Spurs Fan E.J. Fischer (@glorioushubris) who saw the signs:

*Spurs opponents should be afraid and Bulls fans should be upset.

The Jazz’s depth hurt them

2012 Utah Jazz Playoffs Round 1 Totals
Player Pos G MP WP48 WP PoP/48 PoP/G
Derrick Favors 4.5 4 116.5 0.138 0.33 1.2 0.7
Al Jefferson 4.6 4 140.9 0.074 0.22 -0.8 -0.6
DeMarre Carroll 3.1 4 72.7 0.093 0.14 -0.2 -0.1
Josh Howard 2.2 4 62.8 0.079 0.10 -0.6 -0.2
Blake Ahearn 1.0 3 7.6 0.512 0.08 12.8 0.7
Jeremy Evans 3.0 2 7.4 0.500 0.08 12.5 1.0
Enes Kanter 5.0 4 43.0 -0.021 -0.02 -3.7 -0.8
Paul Millsap 3.5 4 138.9 -0.013 -0.04 -3.5 -2.5
Gordon Hayward 2.4 4 122.5 -0.057 -0.14 -4.8 -3.1
Alec Burks 2.0 4 63.0 -0.117 -0.15 -6.7 -2.2
Jamaal Tinsley 1.0 4 64.7 -0.238 -0.32 -10.5 -3.5
Devin Harris 1.0 4 119.9 -0.148 -0.37 -7.7 -4.8

Unlike the Spurs, who had almost everyone playing well, the Jazz had only one player above average in Favors. The playoffs may have actually exposed a problem for the Jazz. They came right up against the Top Heavy Playoffs. The concept is in the playoffs you shorten your bench and only play your best players — which typically leaves you with your top six players. This was actually a problem for the Jazz. Using the NBA Geek regular season totals for the Utah Jazz¬†here’s a brief rundown of the Jazz’s top players and their position for the season:

  • Paul Millsap – PF
  • Gordon Hayward – SF
  • Al Jefferson – C
  • Derrick Favors – PF
  • Devin Harris – PG
  • Earl Watson – PG
  • Enes Kanter – C

The players that helped the Jazz had an astonishingly deep front court during the regular season. They didn’t have much in terms of the wings but hey, during the regular season being able to always have an above average big on the floor is huge. In the playoffs Earl Watson didn’t suit up. Haywood and Harris got torched by the Spurs backcourt. The Jazz’s deep front court couldn’t match up against the Spurs. And in fact in an attempt to play their top bigs Millsap played more at the SF, which may have hurt his performance.

Summing up

The Jazz as they are currently constructed are a team for the regular season. That is not a bad place to be! Having a plethora of above average bigs — most at a discounted price – is a good thing. If they fill in their backcourt they will be even stronger and if they can get a star, or Favors can become the star they need, they could be contending again in no time.

The Spurs as they are currently constructed are a team built for the regular season….and the postseason. They are both top heavy and deep. The Spurs of old have come together yet again and they are joined by young talented players and role players playing great. If you’re a Spurs fan the playoffs being exciting is nothing new. We’ll have to see how they stack up against their next opponents, who will hopefully put up more of a fight.

-Dre

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