San Antonio • A packed, raucous EnergySolutions Arena doesn't compare to battery- and rock-throwing European basketball crowds that left San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili fearing for his safety.
Jazz home games no longer compare to the John Stockton and Karl Malone years, when Spurs point guard Tony Parker recalls fans proudly shouting obscenities and referees buying a little too much into the "let them play" playoff theory.
"Suddenly there's no more calls," Parker said, reflecting on his early years against Utah. "It's like super-physical and you're like, 'What happened?' It's like almost no referees."
But everyone from Ginobili and Parker to Danny Green and Boris Diaw acknowledged after practice Thursday they expect a recharged Jazz team to emerge for Game 3 Saturday.
Utah was 25-8 at ESA during the regular season, and a key portion of the Jazz's late push for a postseason spot came as an unproven team rode a late hometown wave. Now, the Jazz's up-and-down season is officially on the line. And while the Jazz were an embarrassing mess during Game 1 and 2 losses in San Antonio, the Spurs expect to face a different club in Salt Lake City.
"We know they're going to play better at home and they're going to play with a lot more energy," Parker said. "They're going to shoot better, because the first two games they didn't [shoot] the ball well. â¦ 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."
The Jazz's Game 2 blowout loss looked even worse the day after.
After two playoff contests, the only Utah player shooting better than 48 percent from the field is little-used third-string point guard Blake Ahearn, who shot 2 of 3 during garbage time Wednesday.
The Jazz are averaging just 87 points while the Spurs are hitting 110.
And during Utah's 31-point blowout Game 2 defeat, the Jazz became only the third team during the shot-clock era not to have a player score more than 10 points in a playoff contest.
Ready and able
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said reserve center Tiago Splitter (left wrist bone bruise) has been upgraded to probable for Game 3. Splitter was active but didn't play in Game 2.
Even with undersized forwards DeJuan Blair and Diaw manning up against Utah's bigs, the Spurs still have outscored the Jazz 120-80 in the paint.
Popovich has no plans to limit starting center Tim Duncan's minutes during the playoffs. San Antonio's Big Three of Parker, Ginobili and Duncan are averaging less than 33 minutes apiece in the postseason. â¦ Utah didn't practice Thursday. â¦ If Game 5 between the Jazz and Spurs is necessary, it will be either 6:30 p.m. MT Wednesday on NBA TV or 5 p.m. on TNT.