NBA: Utah Jazz optimistic if offensive execution returns
By Steve Luhm
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Apr 30 2012 04:42PM
Despite a 15-point loss in Game 1, the Utah Jazz insist they can beat heavily favored San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs by — among other things — being more efficient on offense.
The Jazz shot only 42 percent during a 106-91 loss in the series opener. They also committed 16 turnovers.
"I would say we have to set [better] picks and just run our offense," Al Jefferson said Monday. "We broke too many plays. They picked up their defense and played aggressively, but I think we let them get us out of our offense."
During the season, the Jazz averaged 99.7 points and shot almost 46 percent, despite being one of the NBA’s most inconsistent teams from the 3-point line.
Utah didn’t come close to those numbers against the Spurs, but trailed by only eight points, 69-61, with 71/2 minutes remaining.
That’s one reason the Jazz’s confidence going into Game 2 is not completely far-fetched: They didn’t play well and San Antonio didn’t put them away until the final six minutes.
"They are a good defensive team — physical and active," said Gordon Hayward. "They get up into you and make things difficult. ... But we got that first game out of the way now and should be better."
According to Hayward, the Spurs pushed the Jazz players off their spots on offense. As a result, the smoothness of possession after possession was disrupted.
"We have to be as physical as they are so we can run our offense better," Hayward said. "... Just a few things like that will open things up a little bit."
For the Spurs, Tony Parker (eight), Manu Ginobili (five) and Tim Duncan (four) combined for as many assists as the Jazz had as a team.
Like Hayward, however, Paul Millsap believes the lack of execution contributed to Utah’s lack of ball movement and scoring in Game 1.
"Definitely," Millsap said. "We weren’t moving well on offense. We weren’t setting screens. We made it hard on ourselves by not doing the little things."
Looking ahead, Millsap said, "Our offense is predicated on setting screens, making hard cuts and moving the ball. If we do that, we’ll be all right."
At point guard, the Jazz need more production from starter Devin Harris.
After playing like an All-Star down the stretch of the regular season, he finished with seven points on 3-for-9 shooting against the Spurs.
"We’ve got to get him to use his speed more," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He has to be aggressive pushing the ball down the floor, and we’ve got to get him into some more pick-and-roll opportunities — put the ball in his hands more. But he’ll be fine. Devin will respond."