Jazz-Spurs Preview

The Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO (AP) The NBA playoffs are not even a week old, and already there have been last-second thrillers in Oklahoma City, an All-Star suspended for bumping a ref, a stunning comeback in Memphis and Amare Stoudemire smashing a glass case with his fist.

Then there's the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz.

What's passed for drama in this series came Tuesday when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was surprised with the NBA Coach of the Year award - and even that hardly qualified as unexpected. The Jazz aren't even shaking up their lineup for Game 2 on Wednesday night, despite Josh Howard's ineffective return to the starting five.

Down 0-1, the Jazz don't want playoff craziness or drama. They just need a win.

''In the playoffs you never know what's going to happen, so you have to continue to play and you'll have opportunities if you continue to fight,'' Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said Tuesday.


''Fight may be the wrong word. Bump. Well, you can't bump, either,'' said Corbin, laughing, alluding to Celtics star Rajon Rondo drawing a one-game suspension for making contact with a referee.

Joking aside, the Jazz are mapping a more physical game plan for All-Star Tony Parker after the Spurs point guard shredded them for 28 points in Game 1. Jazz point guard Devin Harris said his counterpart will likely be in for a ''hard foul or two'' after Parker slashed into Utah's big and bruising frontcourt without hesitation.

It wasn't tough talk from Harris, who had complimented Parker in the same breath. Jazz center Al Jefferson said the goal was ''not to hurt him or nothing like that,'' but rather to dissuade Parker from barreling into the paint and punishing Utah with either an acrobatic layup or kicking out to a 3-point shooter.

''The playoffs is physical. We just can't let him feel like he can come down in that paint any time he ready,'' Jefferson said.

Parker brushed off the warning Tuesday. He's heard worse.

''It's not the first time someone has said that,'' Parker said. ''My answer is always going to be the same: I'm going to keep coming.''

Corbin said Howard will remain in the starting lineup despite going scoreless in 16 minutes in Game 1. Howard returned from knee surgery last week, and despite his bumpy return, Corbin is counting on the nine-year veteran's playoff experience from his years in Dallas.

The Spurs expect to be shorthanded. Backup center Tiago Splitter is doubtful after spraining his left wrist in the series opener, leaving San Antonio even more undersized. Center DeJuan Blair, who had started nearly every game before Boris Diaw took his job last month, will take over Splitter's minutes.

Protecting a 1-0 lead is a position the Spurs haven't been in since 2008. That's also the last time San Antonio took a 2-0 lead, in a first-round series with Phoenix that the Spurs won in five games.

The Spurs would like the same result this time.

''It's a completely different story going Utah 2-0 than 1-1,'' Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. ''We've been in that position a million times.''

Popovich accepted the league's top coaching award Tuesday minimizing his success at how he managed minutes in the lockout-shortened season, and calling the reputation the Spurs have of doing things a certain way ''overblown.'' Popovich said aside from being more efficient on offense and a little worse on defense, the principles have remained the same the last 16 years.

In other words, being like this series so far - steady.

''One thing you've always known about the Spurs: They're going to play the same way, and get it done the same way,'' Spurs forward Stephen Jackson said. ''It's a team that doesn't get rattled, keeps their composure and has Obi-Wan as a coach.''

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