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Playoff strategy to travel home between Games 1 and 2 keeps Jazz on move

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Eric Gay | The Associated Press San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker (9), of France, is defended by Utah Jazz's Devin Harris, left, during the third quarter of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series on Sunday in San Antonio. San Antonio won 106-91.

By Steve Luhm

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 30 2012 01:58PM
Updated May 1, 2012 12:20AM

When the NBA released the schedule for Utah’s first-round playoff series against the Spurs, coach Tyrone Corbin made an unusual decision.

Instead of spending two days and three nights between Games 1 and 2 in San Antonio, the Jazz coach decided to fly back and forth.

As a result, Corbin and his players practiced in Utah on Saturday morning, flew to San Antonio on Saturday afternoon, lost Game 1 on Sunday and returned home Sunday night.

The Jazz practiced in Utah on Monday morning and will do so again Tuesday. Then, they will fly back to San Antonio in the afternoon and play Game 2 on Wednesday night before returning to Salt Lake City.

The totals?

In five days, the Jazz will take four flights and travel almost 4,500 miles to play twice.

"You get another night home in your own bed," Corbin said. "We get a chance to practice on our own floor — to look at film in our own building and relax ... to get out the atmosphere of everything being San Antonio for a while."

Laughing, Corbin told reporters, "Don’t worry, we’ll get back in plenty of time" for Game 2.

Said Gordon Hayward: "I think it’s good to be able to sleep in your own bed and, for some of these guys, get to see their families. That’s always beneficial."

Hayward noted there are "mixed opinions" over whether a team should travel or wait in another city between playoff games.

"Personally, I think it’s good for us to come home," he said. "We can get treatment in our practice facility and watch film and go over things — some stuff we wouldn’t be able to to in San Antonio."

Small forward Howard still likely to start

Corbin will "probably" start veteran Josh Howard at small forward in Game 2. In the opener, he went with Howard instead of DeMarre Carroll.

In only his third outing since knee surgery in mid-March, Howard went scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting in 16 minutes in Game 1.

Asked if he might switch back to Carroll, who filled in admirably while Howard was sidelined, Corbin said, "Right now, we are probably going to stay the same. But we’ll look at it today and tomorrow and see. ...

"I thought [Howard] did OK. He didn’t score, but I thought, defensively, his experience showed at the beginning of the game."

Defense looking to hone in on Parker

To stay in the series, the Jazz must find a way to slow the Spurs’ Tony Parker, who scored 28 points and handed out eight assists in Game 1.

"He’s talented all around," said Jazz point guard Devin Harris said. "He does a great job of getting into the paint. They run great stuff for him. We have to try to make him play a little more defense, limit his transition opportunities ... and maybe give him a hard foul or two."

Back in uniform,Bell stays on bench

Veteran guard Raja Bell was on the active roster for Game 1 but did not play.

It sounds like Bell, who missed a month with a knee injury, is out of the shooting guard rotation behind Hayward and Alec Burks.

"He’s coming off an injury," Corbin said. "I didn’t play him early. At the end of the game, after he sat so long, I didn’t want to put him in."

luhm@sltrib.com

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