Spurs rout Jazz 109-84, end Utah's playoff run
SAN ANTONIO - In the end, the Jazz were simply too banged up, short-handed and overmatched.
Maybe resigned, too.
Playing without fire or passion despite the prospect of elimination from the playoffs, the Jazz fell behind with a miserable first quarter and lost 109-84 to the savagely efficient San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the NBA's Western Conference finals at the AT&T Center on Wednesday night - bringing an ugly and dispiriting end to their unexpectedly deep playoff run.
"We played bad, the whole game," guard Gordan Giricek said. "We didn't have it, and they were playing great."
The Jazz advanced further in the playoffs than anybody expected after a poor finish in the regular season, but the worst elimination loss in their history felt like anything but a reason to celebrate. Nobody played well, coaches and players spent much of the game sitting stunned on the bench, and Carlos Boozer joined Deron Williams in questioning the heart of some of their teammates.
"There were some guys who was already on vacation, man," Williams said. "Point blank - on vacation, a long time ago. . . . I don't like bashing my teammates. I'm never going to call anybody out, individually. But as a team, we have some guys who need to figure some things out. Figure it out, if they want to be here."
Asked if he agreed, Boozer said: "Absolutely."
Boozer and Williams did not name names, but some of the targets were easy to infer. Center Mehmet Okur, forward Andrei Kirilenko and Giricek all played poorly for most of the series, though the Jazz were clearly crippled in Game 5 by being shorthanded in their backcourt.
Williams tried gamely to play on a sprained left foot, and guard Derek Fisher missed the first half while returning later than expected from New York, where his daughter was undergoing treatment from a rare form of cancer in her eye.
But by the time Fisher arrived to start the second half, San Antonio's Tony Parker had exposed Williams on drive after blazing drive to the basket - Parker scored 11 of his 21 points in the first quarter - and the Spurs had carved the Jazz into pieces to assure they would make their third trip in five seasons to the NBA Finals.
"We caught a break and we realize that," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "We're thrilled to be going where we're going."
Even at full strength, though, the Jazz would have had a hard time handling the Spurs.
Not only had the Jazz lost 18 straight to the Spurs on the road since 1999, but they were coming off a fourth-quarter meltdown that cost them Game 4 at home knowing they would have to win three straight to win the series. Only seven teams in league history had managed such a comeback.
The Spurs clearly were not interested in giving the Jazz any hope, either, bursting in front from the opening tip and burying the Jazz before the first period was even over.
"Our first quarter was unbelievable," Parker said. "I can't remember since I have been with the Spurs, shooting the ball like that. Our defense was great. Our offense was great. Everybody was knocking down shots. . . . Maybe our best start since I've been a Spur."
The Spurs blew the game open midway through the period, when Parker drove for a layup, drew a foul on a drive after teammate Robert Horry stole an inbounds pass, and slashed for another layup on the next possession. Horry pressured Williams into another backcourt turnover, Parker hit a jump shot, and Tim Duncan threw down an alley-oop dunk that sent the sellout crowd of 18,797 into a frenzy.
To make it worse, Horry swatted Williams to set up a Bruce Bowen three-pointer, and Parker blew past Williams again for a 30-11 lead that all but sealed the game.
"We lost faith as far as anything we wanted to do," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "They destroyed our will to want to play. And that was really - to me, that was the whole thing that started the ballgame off. . . . They put us where they wanted us all night long."
Duncan finished with 21 points for the Spurs, who smothered Boozer and held him to nine points. Williams scored only nine, and the Jazz again received precious little help from the rest of their team. Kirilenko led the Jazz with 13 points.
"You'd think we could put up a better fight than that, in probably the most important game of our careers," Williams said.