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Monson: No reason to fear San Antonio in playoff picture
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When the Jazz built a modest lead against San Antonio on Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena in the third quarter, the following strange thought arrived: Maybe they would be better off having the Spurs beat them.

After all, the Jazz want no part of San Antonio not the team, not the place in the first round of the playoffs . . . because they simply cannot beat the Spurs in a best-of-seven series, especially when the defending champs have home-court advantage. The Jazz have not won a single game in San Antonio since 1999.

Better for the Jazz, then, not to dent the Spurs' late-season roll they had won eight consecutive games and make sure to keep San Antonio well north of them in the Western Conference standings.

That's provided, of course, the Jazz can hold off Denver and finish first in the Northwest Division, where their lesser record would not affect their position at the No. 4 spot.

Lawdy, Lawdy, don't let the Spurs fall to No. 5.

If they did, the Jazz would be toast.

Right?

That was before all the modesty was drilled out of the Jazz's lead. It grew and grew and grew to dimensions nobody could have expected against such a good team to the point of embarrassment. Not just embarrassment but to historical proportions.

Here's the red-faced part: The Jazz led by 29 points in the fourth quarter.

Here's the historical part: The Jazz held the Spurs not just to their lowest point total of the season, which had been 73, rather to the lowest point total in franchise history.

San Antonio scratched up just 64 points.

The Jazz got 90.

"They kicked our ass," was the way Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put it.

"They beat us in every possible aspect of the game," said Manu Ginobili. "They were more aggressive than us. They wanted the game more than us."

And, as the Jazz rained threes down on San Antonio straight through that last quarter, a span during which they outscored their opponents by a count of 26-9, a curious thought seemed to float around, a thought that trumped the aforementioned strange thought: Go ahead and pummel Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Ginobili. Punish the bums. And let the consequences fall where they may.

That was the option the Jazz took.

"It felt great out there," said Deron Willams. "It was a great team effort, a great defensive effort. We knew what we had to do to beat a team like that."

The Jazz had to rough up the Spurs, beat them with hammers on defense, out-execute them at the other end, get them down and bury them, something they haven't done in such totality for as long as anyone could remember.

"It was fun out there," Mehmet Okur said.

The crowd certainly concurred. The Jazz kept playing defense, hitting shots, mopping the floor with the proud visitors right up until the end. When Williams went to shoot free throws, fans chanted something that hasn't been heard in these parts for a decade: "M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!"

"That was nice," the point guard acknowledged.

As Popovich pulled his stars off the floor early in the fourth, Sloan kept his main guys in the game, as though he wanted them to get familiar with a new, rare, blessed feeling, to gain confidence from it, to remember it.

On the other hand, after the game, he wanted them to forget it.

"It's just one win," Sloan said. "It's not a championship."

Maybe, but it was obvious that the Jazz gained more than a notch in the win column from this victory. They were exorcising the indecisive, inept play they offered in last season's playoff series with the Spurs, a set the Jazz ultimately dropped 4-1.

"We did what we were supposed to do," Okur said. "We came out with a lot of energy, and played hard."

What the Spurs did was out of character. They goofed around on offense, they weakened as the game went on at the defensive end. And, with 10 minutes left, they punted.

Still, you had to wonder what a proud San Antonio club was thinking as its starters sat on the bench, watching the Jazz continue to bomb away on its sorry bunch of scrubs.

That's the dangerous part.

Will the Spurs remember, and eventually exact their revenge in the weeks ahead?

The Jazz didn't seem overly worried. They said they, too, will remember this night what it took to pull the heart out of a champion and take pleasure in its pain.

---

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com.

Here's the historical part: The Jazz held the Spurs not just to their lowest point total of the season, which had been 73, rather to the lowest point total in franchise history.

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