San Antonio • Gregg Popovich made the first move Sunday. Then he immediately countered Tyrone Corbin’s initial reaction. By the time the first quarter was over, San Antonio’s mad scientist was already winning the game. And all Corbin could do was watch and react.
With Popovich dictating lineups and rotation changes, an outmatched Jazz team fell 106-91 during Game 1 of a first-round series.
San Antonio used 10 players during the first 12 minutes, with nine recording points. Manu Ginobili’s replacement of Danny Green at the 6:30 mark was Popovich’s first move. Stephen Jackson for Kawhi Leonard — answering Corbin’s insertion of DeMarre Carroll for Josh Howard — was the second. Soon, Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal were on the court.
The constant maneuvering left Utah scrambling, and the Jazz’s rotations were often off.
Utah’s Big Three of Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson made minimal impact, while 2011 lottery picks Alec Burks and Enes Kanter combined for 21:12. With reserve Jamaal Tinsley nearly playing as much as starting point guard Devin Harris (25:49) and backup DeMarre Carroll earning more court time than starting small forward Josh Howard (16:26), the Jazz never looked comfortable or in command.
“I had to change it a little bit because they went small a couple times, and I didn’t feel good about our big lineup. … They ran out a little bit on us and then they spread the floor, so this team is great at taking advantage of any mistakes you make,” Corbin said.
Game 1 went to Pop.
After spending a lockout-compressed season using a variety of starting lineups and resting star players Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Ginobili, a coach with a 109-73 postseason record won the initial matchup against Corbin, who’s 0-1 after Sunday’s loss.
When Popovich rested the Spurs’ Big Three on April 9, he was willing to concede a regular-season defeat for long-term victory. The 16-year coach also wanted to spread the wealth, believing a deep bench could prove crucial for an aging San Antonio squad gunning for another NBA title.
After utilizing 11 players Sunday and inserting four athletes at once with 2:19 to go, Popovich doesn’t plan to streamline his rotation just because the playoffs have started.
“It’s what we’ve done all year, so I don’t want to change it,” Popovich said. “We’ll continue to do what we’ve done, and it will either be good enough or it won’t.”
Josh Howard 16:26
Devin Harris 25:49
DeMarre Carroll 21:36
Jamaal Tinsley 20:20
Alec Burks 11:25
Enes Kanter 9:47