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Utah Jazz: Paul Millsap takes team's playoff predicament personally

Published May 6, 2012 4:27 pm

Down 3-0 • Veteran aims to be more productive vs. Diaw.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Jazz are on life support in their first-round series against San Antonio and, like a doctor whose patient is slipping away, Paul Millsap takes it personally.

The Spurs can sweep Utah out of the playoffs in Game 4 on Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

San Antonio owns a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which it has dominated. The Spurs' average winning margin has been 19 points per game.

For Millsap, the heart and soul of the Jazz who has more time invested in the franchise than any other current player, the situation is especially disappointing.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I feel I haven't played my best basketball," he said. "I haven't been the leader I know I'm supposed to be. So a lot of this weighs on me."

Millsap averages 12.7 points and 8.3 rebounds against the Spurs, but he's made only 16 of 37 shots, or 43 percent.

Said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin: "You can't feel sorry for yourself. You have to find a way to fight through it and continue to get better.

"Paul has always demonstrated he's going to continue to fight. He's not going to lay down and die and just let you beat him."

By keeping Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter close to the basket and doubling Utah's post-up players from different angles, the Spurs have limited the effectiveness of Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Millsap.

"They're taking away the things we do best — that's pound the ball inside and get to the basket," Millsap said. "Those things have been taken away. ...

"They're disciplined in what they do. They help and recover quick, and they are keeping guys out of the lane. We have to be a good team and adjust."

The Jazz have reached the playoffs five times in Millsap's six seasons with the Jazz.

They reached the Western Conference finals when he was a rookie in 2007, but they are only 5-14 since 2009 and have lost seven straight playoff games.

Although San Antonio has been overpowering in this series, Millsap looks forward to Game 4 — and possibly beyond.

"You have to stay optimistic," he said. "I'm always going to try to motivate these guys because anything can happen. We're still professionals, and anything is capable of happening out there."

For the Jazz to avoid a sweep, Millsap must be more productive in his head-to-head match-up with Boris Diaw.

A veteran who couldn't get playing time in Charlotte this season, Diaw was bought out of his contract in March. He quickly signed with San Antonio.

Diaw has played a critical role in the Spurs' ability to defend Millsap and neutralize one individual matchup that appeared favorable for the Jazz.

"I feel like I still have an advantage at times," Millsap said. "It's just me getting the ball at the right spots ... because they are taking us out of it. It's been sort of difficult to get the ball in our working areas."

Corbin agrees, saying Diaw has been "quick and smart about when to be up on [Millsap] and when to back off him. When you aren't making your jump shots, it's a little more difficult to play against him. ... He's been a great addition for them." —

By the numbers

Paul Millsap's numbers in the first three games of the Jazz-Spurs playoff series:

Min. FGs FTs Rebs. Assists Steals Blocks Pts.

Game 1 35:45 8-14 4-6 9 0 0 3 20

Game 2 29:03 4-11 1-2 5 0 0 0 9

Game 3 32:47 4-12 1-4 11 0 1 5 9