Once their teammates got into the act, the Jazz gave the crowd what it really wanted, a 109-83 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night that drastically changes the outlook of the series.
Williams had 31 points and eight assists, and Boozer had 27 points and 12 rebounds, but it was the emergence of their supporting cast in the second half that helped the Jazz enjoy the kind of route the Spurs had the first two games— and then some. The 26-point margin of defeat was San Antonio’s worst of the season.
“To be down against this team 2-zip and then come back and have to do whatever you have to do to win, I thought our guys were able to do that,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “Hopefully it gets their confidence up.”
Derek Fisher, Andrei Kirilenko, Jarron Collins and Gordan Giricek all made significant contributions during a 12-3 run in the third quarter that put Utah ahead for good. Paul Millsap added some key baskets in the fourth quarter, and the Jazz improved to 7-0 at home this postseason and 3-0 against the Spurs in Salt Lake City this season.
“There were no night-and-day differences in terms of game plan or strategies, but we were a more active team,” said Fisher, who scored 11 points, two more than he had in the previous two games combined. “It just feels good to get a win. It verifies and solidifies the thoughts that our team has always carried—that we can beat this team. But until you do it, it’s hard to continue to tell yourself that.”
Although he didn’t foul out, Duncan played tentatively and wound up with 16 points and eight rebounds. He also had eight turnovers as his run of 20-point, 10-rebound games ended at 11 in a row.
“It’s tough to get going and to stay aggressive when you have fouls like that,” Duncan said. “They just played a better game than us for a long time. They were aggressive, they were physical, their guys shot well. They had a lot of things happening for them.”
Utah’s win means there will be no sweep. The loud Jazz fans in their “True Blue” T-shirts can now start dreaming of their team being the first to overcome an 0-2 deficit in the Western Conference finals. Why not? They’ve already dug out of such a hole once this postseason, against Houston in the first round.
And they get to play another game in Salt Lake City on Monday night. This victory by Utah guarantees there will be a Game 5 in San Antonio on Wednesday night.
“Despite all the odds, we’re still here playing,” said Williams, showing no effects of a hard foul that sent him to the bench for good with 3:50 left and the outcome decided.
In their first game since being named to Team USA, Williams and Boozer showed why they’re rapidly becoming Stockton-and-Malone 2.0.
The speedy point guard and burly power forward kept the Jazz close until their teammates came to life.
Down by four at halftime—a small victory considering they were down 17 and 18 points midway through the previous two games—Utah’s desire was evident at the start of the third quarter when Williams darted down court with a different energy level than he’d had all series. He missed a layup, but Boozer tipped it in.
San Antonio held its last lead at 60-59. Then Fisher hit a 3-pointer, his first basket of the game also was the first points by a starter other than Williams or Boozer. More rare contributions followed from Kirilenko (his first point of the game), Collins (who hadn’t scored in 11 games) and Giricek. Millsap had consecutive baskets early in the fourth quarter that bumped the lead to 12, and San Antonio was never closer than 11 the rest of the game.
“I thought we matched their energy and physicality for a quarter, and at that point they upped the stakes in that area and we folded, both mentally and physically,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “The score of the game is not really all that important. How we play is what matters and we didn’t play very well. They played better than we did in a lot of areas.”
San Antonio’s inability to move toward a sweep shouldn’t be a surprise. In winning three titles since 1999, the Spurs have gone 4-0 in only one of the 16 series they’ve won, the lone exception coming in a first-round series three years ago.
Tony Parker led San Antonio with 25 points and seven assists. Manu Ginobili was the only other double-digit scorer with 14 as the Spurs went from shooting 55 percent the first two games to making only 44 percent this time. After hitting 13 3-pointers last game, San Antonio had only seven.
Fisher and Giricek finished with 11 points each. Millsap and Harpring each scored eight and Collins had seven.
Actress Eva Longoria, Parker’s fiancee, was booed when showed on the overhead monitor during the second quarter. … This was Duncan’s 132nd career playoff game, passing Kobe Bryant for sixth on the career list. … San Antonio’s Robert Horry hit his first 3-pointer of the series. … Utah improved to 9-0 all-time against San Antonio in home playoff games. … A Duncan-led Spurs team has blown a 2-0 lead before—in the second round in 2004, when Fisher was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers and memorably changed the series with a long 3-pointer at the buzzer of Game 5. … The New York Knicks are the only team to have blown a 2-0 lead in a conference finals, doing it in 1971 against Baltimore and 1993 against Chicago. Dallas did it in the NBA finals last year. … Jazz coach Jerry Sloan moved back ahead of Popovich for sole possession of fifth on the postseason wins list. This was his 87th.