San Antonio • Tony Parker burned Devin Harris. Gregg Popovich outmaneuvered Tyrone Corbin. The Spurs outmanned the Jazz. And Utah already has major adjustments to make, just one contest into its first-round playoff series against San Antonio.
The eighth-seeded Jazz fell 106-91 to the No. 1 Spurs during Game 1 of a Western Conference matchup Sunday at AT&T Center.
Utah held a 13-12 advantage with 5 minutes and 54 seconds left in the first quarter. The rest belonged San Antonio.
The Jazz never led again, and everyone from Parker to Popovich reminded Utah that postseason basketball — even during a lockout-compressed year — is an entirely different world from the regular season.
“We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to be more sharp and determined to run off and make sure we get to the spots that we want to,” Corbin said. “[The Spurs] are experienced guys. They are physical. They are going to try and knock you off everything.”
San Antonio did just that.
Running 10 players during key situations and constantly keeping the Jazz in a reactionary mode, the Spurs dictated rotations and lineups while calmly controlling the tempo.
Parker guided the smooth attack, recording game-highs in points (28) and assists (8), and receiving “MVP” chants as he sank 8 of 10 attempts from the free throw line.
“He’s the reason we’ve been successful thus far this season. He continued that [Sunday],” Popovich said. “He’s had a wonderful year. He’s been very focused and did another good job.”
Tim Duncan added 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, leaving an outmatched Al Jefferson to say he doesn’t know why people refer to his opponent as being old.
With veteran reserve small forward Stephen Jackson serving as Game 1’s X-factor — 14 points, two made 3-pointers, four rebounds — Utah was often left scrambling and seldom appeared capable of surviving the first round.
Paul Millsap scored a team-high 20 points for the Jazz, while Gordon Hayward added 17 and made all 12 of his free throws during his playoff debut. But Jefferson never came close to taking over, Utah committed 16 turnovers, and only three Jazz players scored more than nine points for a team that shot just 42.1 percent from the field.
Utah’s Game 1 takeaway message: This isn’t going be easy. At all.
The Jazz rolled into the playoffs, winning five consecutive games to wrestle the No. 8 seed from Phoenix. But Utah’s top three players — Millsap, Jefferson, Harris — either haven’t played significant roles in the postseason or haven’t been in the playoffs in years. With the Jazz relying on four players 22 or younger, Utah’s inexperience was exposed by Popovich’s Spurs.
A franchise that’s won four NBA titles since 1999 and is coached by a likely future Hall of Famer set the agenda and never looked back Sunday.
The Jazz will make adjustments with a three-day break before Game 2 Wednesday in San Antonio. But so will the Spurs. And while Utah’s just trying to survive the first round, Popovich is eyeing his second title during a lockout year.
“You’ve got to beat this team. They’re not going to give anything away. You’ve got to go out there and take it,” Harris said. “Obviously, they did what they’re supposed to do. They executed well, they played well. We’ve got to come out with a better effort on Wednesday.”
While the final score shows a 15-point blowout, Utah was alive until midway through the fourth quarter. The Jazz slimmed an 85-70 deficit at the start of the period to 89-81, and Jefferson finally found his touch after being frustrated during the first three quarters.
But a three-point play by Parker was followed by a game-changing 3 from Matt Bonner, and Utah never drew close again.
The final 2:19 of the Jazz’s first playoff game since May 10, 2010 was garbage time. Popovich inserted four players at once. Corbin responded with little-used reserves Blake Ahearn and Jeremy Evans. Utah was conceding its first game against San Antonio. And while the Jazz swore they’d be stronger in Game 2, they also know their road just became significantly tougher.
“They the No. 1 seed for a reason.They accomplished a lot of stuff,” Utah reserve point guard Jamaal Tinsley said. “We’ve just got to figure out how to play a good 48 minutes when you’re playing a team like that that has no letdowns. Knowing that we’ve got to be a perfect team on every possession. It’s hard to do that. But we’ve just got to limit the silly mistakes … and just do the right, little things to win ballgames.”
Jazz-Spurs box score: http://goo.gl/GDDBI
Check The Tribune’s Jazz Notes blog at sltrib.com/Blogs/jazznotes for exclusive news, interviews, video and analysis.