One Win Away

As much as the individual talents of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have frustrated the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference finals, the San Antonio Spurs have benefited from something else: their collective experience.

The Spurs are the oldest team in the league, featuring a roster full of players who've won championships or been part of long postseason runs.

Oddsmakers have made San Antonio -7 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 189 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on San Antonio -7 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The calmness, confidence and wisdom gained along the way has been put to good use against the novice Jazz, helping San Antonio build a 3-1 series lead going into Game 5 on Wednesday night.

Consider the evidence.

In Games 1 and 2, San Antonio built big leads, then prevented Utah from getting close until it was way too late. The Jazz finally clicked when they went home for Game 3 and the Spurs were wise enough to realize it wasn't their night. Rather than go all out for a rally that might've made the final score look good - as Utah did late in the first two games - San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich let backups finish what became a 26-point loss.

The best example, though, was Game 4 on Monday night.

Neither team was playing great, but both were playing hard. The Spurs led by only one point early in the fourth quarter when a foul was called on the Jazz. Then another. And another. More fouls and some technicals followed. Utah's fans lost their composure, too, going from anti-official chants to throwing things on the court.

San Antonio handled it all just fine, mainly by making free throws and not doing anything silly. As a reward, the Spurs are one win away from heading to the NBA finals for the third time in five years.

``The playoffs are a physical time,'' Popovich said Tuesday. ``Things happen and you move on.''

Series clinchers, also known as ``close-out'' games, are considered the toughest to win, but San Antonio players certainly know the drill.

The Spurs are 12-4 in close-out games since Duncan, Parker and Ginobili teamed up in 2003. Nine of the wins came on their first chance to end a series, including against Denver and Phoenix this postseason.

Yet within those numbers lies a nugget of hope for Utah. All four of San Antonio's losses have come at home.

Well, that would be good news for the Jazz if they hadn't lost 18 straight games in San Antonio. Utah's skid dates to February 1999, so long ago that Karl Malone and John Stockton had four more years together and the David Robinson-led Spurs were not only still playing in the Alamodome, it was 18 months before ground was broken on their current arena.

Another concern for Utah is that point guard Deron Williams received treatment for a sprained ankle Tuesday. He's expected to play Game 5, but also is getting over a stomach ailment that he said cost him eight pounds over the weekend.

Still, San Antonio is bracing for another challenge. Just to get this far, the Jazz had to shake off a season-ending 3-6 slump, then an 0-2 deficit in the first round. So they're not likely to give up now.

``We don't in any way think we are just going to walk in our building and take these guys out,'' Duncan said. ``They have shown they can play with us. They have shown that they are very physical.''

Utah is likely going through a rite of passage, like Miami's Dwyane Wade endured before his breakthrough last year and, most famously, Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls faced in getting past the Bad Boy-era Detroit Pistons.

The Jazz are somewhat fortunate to have experienced all that they have this postseason. Sure, they earned it by beating the Rockets in seven games and Golden State in five, but the Warriors helped by eliminating the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round. Whether Utah might've beaten Dallas is irrelevant; the bottom line is that the Jazz are gaining valuable experience - there's that word again - that should help in 2008 and beyond.

After all, Carlos Boozer is 25 and Williams is 22, so the pieces are in place for Utah's revival to continue.

The biggest problem for the Jazz this series is that Williams (29.5 points per game) and Boozer (24.5) aren't getting enough help. Utah's third-highest scorer is Andrei Kirilenko at a measly 8.3 points per game.

``I think we're playing a little bit weaker than we did the first two rounds. Probably the opponent is a little different,'' Kirilenko said. ``Still, we need to stay as a team for the whole 48 minutes.''

Utah's inability to spread the scoring isn't a case of Williams and Boozer hogging the ball. Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, Derek Fisher and Matt Harpring are mostly missing open shots and losing confidence, resulting in more misses or fewer attempts.

``We have guys who are talented enough to pick it up,'' Boozer said. ``We're going to need those guys to pick it up if we're going to have a chance. In Game 5, we're going to have to get all the loose balls, all the rebounds. Every advantage we can have, we're going to have to get.''

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

More NBA Basketball Coverage from

 - NBA Basketball teams
 - NBA Basketball standings
 - NBA Basketball schedule
 - NBA Basketball scoreboard
 - NBA Basketball injuries
 - NBA Basketball matchups
 - NBA Basketball stats
 - NBA Basketball odds
 - NBA Basketball public betting chart
 - NBA Basketball news wire
 - NBA Basketball top stories
 - NBA Basketball trends
 - AccuScore NBA Basketball predictions
 - Expert NBA Basketball picks
 - Comments and discussion
 - Signup for daily newsletter
 - NBA Basketball Home

NBA Top Stories

Thumbnail Will Fox be a top-5 pick? With the 2017 NBA Drafttakes place later tonight. Where can we expect one of the top prospects, De’Aaron Fox, to land tonight?
Thumbnail Fultz to go to the 76ers? The Boston Celticshave traded out of the No. 1 pick. The Philadelphia 76ersnow hold the top pick once again. Is it a slam dunk who they will take in the NBA...
Thumbnail 2018 NBA Finals Odds After dominating the 2017 NBA Playoffs, will anyone keep the Golden State Warriors from winning the NBA Finals again...
Thumbnail Stephen Curry Game 5 Props Will Stephen Curry bounce back from a poor showing in Game 4 when the Golden State Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight at 9PM...
Thumbnail Will James get another triple-double? Will LeBron James add to his NBA Finals record of nine triple-doubles when the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals...

NBA Headlines

  • PHILADELPHIA (AP) Markelle Fultz already has his first turnover as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
    It came in an Instagram post sponsored by a watch company. ''Excited to head to (City) a...
  • NEW YORK (AP) Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was suspended for two games without pay by the NBA on Friday for pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
  • HOUSTON (AP) Former NBA player Marcus Camby has been named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit over the drowning of his 9-year-old autistic nephew in a pond on Camby's Houston-area property last...
  • As draft night approached, some of the heavy hitters in the NBA - Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston, Boston, the Clippers among them - were jockeying, making calls and looking for deals to try to pos...
  • NEW YORK (AP) The NBA draft averaged more than 3.5 million viewers, the second-biggest audience ever on ESPN.
    The telecast Thursday peaked with 5.2 million viewers from 8:15 to 8:30 p.m. EDT,...

NBA Team Pages