NBA playoffs: Spurs look right at home with second-half spree
Typical of the San Antonio Spurs, not a lot really needed to be said at halftime of Saturday's 102-90 Game 3 win over the Utah Jazz.
Gregg Popovich made a few minor adjustments: more touches in the paint for Tim Duncan, more pick-and-rolls that involved making Al Jefferson play defense. And more defensive possessions that didn't end with Utah at the free-throw line.
The result was predictable for anyone who watched the first two games of the series: The Jazz tried desperately to hang on and be competitive with the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Ultimately, however, the Spurs were too tough, too athletic and too experienced for a Utah team that seemed to run out of life midway through the fourth quarter.
"We finally stopped fouling," Popovich said. "The Jazz doubled our free throws in the first half, and I thought we had some really poor fouls. They never got into the bonus in the third and fourth quarter. That's probably the biggest adjustment that we made."
That, and timely shots, allowed San Antonio to pull away in the third period, before a sellout crowd at EnergySolutions Arena. Stephen Jackson and Danny Green teamed up to hit four 3-pointers in the third period alone. Mainly because of Tony Parker's penetration, those two found themselves wide open on the perimeter when the Spurs swung the ball around. Typical of San Antonio basketball, Jackson and Green delivered when it mattered.
Defensively, the Spurs held Utah to 36.8 percent shooting in the third period, as the Jazz scored just 18 points in the quarter. San Antonio's defense forced four turnovers in the third quarter, and the Spurs looked much like the team they were in the first two games when it came to taking advantage of those turnovers.
"We needed to defend without fouling, and we needed to keep them off the offensive boards," Jackson said. "Utah's a big, tough, physical team. They beat people up with rebounds, so we just tried to neutralize them. Once we did that, we were able to find a rhythm and we were able to finally make a run. But it was about adjusting to their style of play."