San Antonio — Notes following Spurs practice Thursday at the team's workout facility.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said reserve center Tiago Splitter (left wrist bone bruise) is probable for Game 3 Saturday at EnergySolutions Arena. Splitter was active but didn't play in Game 2, and Popovich said rest has served the center well.
San Antonio ran through a light practice Thursday, combining shooting drills with weight lifting. The Spurs were focused, energized and loose. Stephen Jackson playfully threw a punch at a smiling Tim Duncan, then kissed his own biceps less than a minute later. Several Spurs competed in timed shooting drills at workout stations, with coaches yelling and players pushing each other while shots were swished.
Popovich joked the media had no reason to talk to him since nothing had actually happened since the Spurs' 114-83 blowout Game 2 victory Wednesday and before Thursday's workout. He answered questions for about three minutes, then walked away saying, "Take care."
Popovich on the Spurs' defense during Games 1 and 2 against the Jazz's post players: In general, the guys are trying to react to Utah's inside game, which is very, very good. Very dedicated guys going to the rim, and we're doing the best we can to try to counteract it. They really beat us on that offensive board [Wednesday] night, but we'll try to make it an emphasis when we get up to Utah.
Limiting Duncan's minutes in the playoffs: … Each game is a different animal. If he plays 20 minutes or he has to play 44 minutes, that's what we would do based on what's going on in the game. It's playoff time and you play as much as needed, and he's ready to do that.
Tony Parker on not giving the Jazz any hope during Game 3: Yeah, definitely. We know they're going to play better at home and they're going to play with a lot more energy. They're going to shoot better, because the first two games they didn't [shoot] the ball well. We expect them to shoot the ball well and play with a lot of energy, so we're going to have to match that and make sure we stay on top of their game, because we don't want to give them any hope.
Where the Jazz's arena ranks in the NBA in terms of home-court advantage: Top-five. Since I've been here, when it was back with Karl Malone and John Stockton, suddenly there's no more calls. It's like super-physical and you're like, 'What happened?' It's like almost no referees. [Laughs] It's great over there. I like the atmosphere. The fans are great over there and it's going to be exciting.
Best the Spurs' defense has played all season: Yeah. I think we can still improve. There's a lot of room for improvement for us. That's a part of our game we want to improve and stay on it. We know we can score some points. But we know if we don't play good defense we're not going to go anywhere.
Jazz crowds comparable to Europe: Yeah, yeah, especially back in the day when they had John Stockton and Karl Malone, it was just like that. When the fans would scream at you and they'd curse at you and blah, blah, blah. It's just like Europe. Except they don't throw stuff. In Europe, they throw stuff. They throw coins at you and a lot of stuff at you.
Manu Ginobili on possible Jazz lineup/rotation changes: It does matter, but there's nothing you can do about it. You can't be guessing. So you've just got to plan and think and learn what they do or we can do better, and then we'll adjust if they adjust.
Spurs' first-round loss to Memphis last season playing a part in San Antonio's sharp focus against Jazz: Not really. We played great [against Memphis], we played a good series. A lot of intensity. They just outplayed us. Sometimes its going to happen. They did better than us. I don't think it was a mistake or lack of concentration or lack of anything. They just did better than us. And when that happens, you just shake their hands and think about next season.
His rhythm after resting before playoffs: I didn't play good the first two games, of course — everybody saw that — and I want to get it back in Game 3. But the good thing is we're a good team and you don't need individuals. You need a group to stand by you and play well. When your teammates play so good, your mistakes and the bad game I had is totally unimportant.
Jazz's crowd compared to other NBA teams: In the playoffs, most of the fans gets very energetic and excited. Every team basically is the same. I don't feel a big difference going into Memphis last year, or going into Utah or Phoenix in the past or the Lakers. It gets loud everywhere. Fans get excited. I don't think it's going to be very different.
Jazz, NBA crowds compared to Europe: I played in Europe four years, three in Argentina. And, believe me, it's not like Europe. I've been scared. They threw rocks at me, batteries, coins. And, luckily, it is not like that here. It gets loud of course. It gets fun — a great atmosphere. But you never feel threatened. And I did feel threatened over there.
Boris Diaw quickly adapting to the Spurs: Very surprised. I'm very gladly surprised. He's been contributing a lot, mainly in defense. But offensively, being patient, finding the open teammate, doing what he does — that is passing the ball really well. Very high basketball IQ. Not that I thought he couldn't play, don't get me wrong. But his overall game is even better than I expected.
Diaw on playing with Tim Duncan: It's so easy to play with Tim. The level, the basketball IQ he has. He's going to find you overtime you're open; it's always going to be in the right spots. It's really easy to play with him.
Defending Al Jefferson: We try to change the looks. Sometimes play him straight up. Sometimes coming and double-teaming. … As far as the game plan, it's the same thing. We've got the freedom to sometimes double team, sometimes not. That makes it harder because they never know what we're going to do and that's what we try to do.
Atmosphere for Game 3: We know it's going to be a different game, because Utah's played well better at home and it's always been like that. It's always tough to go play over there; they've got a good crowd, too. So we definitely think the third game's going to be the hardest game so far in the series.
Brian T. Smith
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