|NBA Basketball Recap: San Antonio Spurs Defeat Utah Jazz 109-80|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Wednesday, 16 April 2008 19:46|
Spurs Crush Jazz
The Spurs will face the sixth-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Jazz will take on the Houston Rockets.
The Spurs' win, coupled with Houston's victory earlier Wednesday evening, firmed up seeds 3-6 in the West, which were still up in the air on the last day of the regular season.
Houston gets the fifth seed but will have home-court advantage against the No. 4-seeded Jazz, who secured that spot because they won the Northwest Division.
While the Jazz were guaranteed either the third or fourth seed no matter what happened Wednesday, the Spurs had the potential to drop as low as sixth.
Tony Parker had 24 points and 12 assists for San Antonio in the easy win. Tim Duncan added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and four other Spurs scored in double digits.
C.J. Miles led the Jazz with 12 points. Mehmet Okur scored 11 and Carlos Boozer had 10 rebounds.
The San Antonio-Phoenix matchup could be the best of the first round. The two met in the second round last season and the Spurs eliminated the Suns in six games on their way to their fourth title in nine seasons. But with the Eastern Conference weaker last year, many considered the Spurs-Suns series as on par with a finals matchup.
It certainly lived up to expectations by featuring plenty of bumps and bruises, controversial fouls and harsh words between the teams.
But the usually fast-moving, high-scoring Suns are a different team this postseason. They acquired Shaquille O'Neal in a blockbuster trade and have been melding him into their system to give the team a defensive boost.
Phoenix won the season series against San Antonio 3-1, including a 96-79 rout April 9 in San Antonio.
The Rockets are playing without Yao Ming, but had one of the season's headlines as they went on a 22-game winning streak.
But now the Rockets will also be without Rafer Alston, who strained his right hamstring against Denver on Sunday. Alston said he would likely miss Houston's first two playoff games.
Utah won the season series against Houston 2-1. The Jazz eliminated the Rockets last year in a first-round series that went seven games.
The Spurs put away the game early with their first-half play on Wednesday. They shot 72 percent from the field in the opening two quarters and scored one more point than they did in the entire game against Utah less than two weeks ago, when the Jazz routed them 90-64 in Salt Lake City.
San Antonio outscored the Jazz 35-18 in the second quarter and went up by 28 points on Manu Ginobili's reverse layup with 41 seconds left in the period. They were up 65-19 at the break.
In a sign of how important the game was, Ginobili played after sitting out three games with a strained left groin. The super-sub leads the team in scoring. Ginobili finished with 12 points.
Utah guard Deron Williams, who shot 2-of-6 from the field in the first half, didn't play in the second half. He bruised his tailbone Saturday against Denver.
As the Spurs built their lead to as many as 29 in the third, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich started taking out his starters. First Michael Finley, then Duncan, then Parker. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan did the same.
The Spurs were up 85-60 with one quarter to play.
Both Popovich and Sloan rested their stars during the fourth quarter.
Notes: The Jazz last won in San Antonio on Feb. 29, 1999. ... Okur was called for a flagrant foul 1 with 8:27 to play in the third quarter after he whacked Spurs starting C Fabricio Oberto in the face. Oberto was touching his eye after the hit and went to the bench after missing both free throws. He returned in the fourth quarter. ... Spurs G Brent Barry played in his second game after re-signing with the Spurs in March following a February trade sent him from San Antonio to Seattle. Barry had a strained left calf muscle that had sidelined him since late January. ... The Spurs shot a season-high 59 percent (41-of-69) from the field Wednesday.