Spurs - Jazz: Game 3 Preview
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Al Jefferson waited seven years for this. Yet instead of experiencing playoff excitement, the Utah Jazz center has been part of two embarrassing losses with a team he acknowledged was "unraveling" before his eyes against the San Antonio Spurs.
Now down 0-2 in their first-round Western Conference series, the Jazz need to turn things around in a big way with Game 3 set for Saturday night in Salt Lake City.
That means more production from their bigs.
Jefferson, for one, is pushing for more minutes for Utah's big lineup that entails bringing second-year pro Derrick Favors in at power forward and moving Paul Millsap to small forward.
"I think the big lineup could hurt them if we get into it earlier in the game instead of doing it when we're already down," Jefferson said Friday.
Favors is all for it.
"I'm ready for anything," the 6-foot-10 forward said. "If (coach) gives me minutes, I'm ready for it."
The Jazz have lost two games by a combined 46 points, yet when Favors is on the floor, Utah has outscored the Spurs by six points.
When he left Wednesday's game in the second quarter, the Jazz were down just five only to see San Antonio close out the half on a 22-2 run.
Granted, the run also coincided with the return of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.
"That run could have happened if I was still in the game," Favors said.
But the athletic, energetic Favors wants the challenge.
When he looks across the floor at Duncan, he isn't intimidated but motivated.
"What he's accomplished, that's what I want to accomplish - whether it's MVP, championships, All-Star (teams)," said Favors, who is averaging 8.5 rebounds and eight points in 23.5 minutes in his first two career postseason games.
Favors is not cocky enough to believe he's there yet. But he's confident he can get there.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin acknowledged he needs to get Favors on the floor more.
"He's played well the minutes he's played," Corbin said.
"If the big lineup is the answer or him at 4 and playing smaller, we've got to see," Corbin said. "We've got to make sure we're giving ourselves chances to win and we need everybody to play better, and with him on the floor, we are better."
Jefferson certainly hasn't played up to his Western Conference player of the week award he won in mid-April when he posted three double-doubles and averaged 20 points, a league-high 15.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.0 blocks during a 3-0 Jazz run.
In two postseason losses, he is averaging 13 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3 assists in 31 minutes. He has made 13 of 31 shots.
"I know I can be better than what I've been," said Jefferson, in the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season in 2005. "But I'm just a little more frustrated, too, with everything that's been going on and the way we've been playing and the way things are kind of unraveling as a team.
"But we've been through it before, many times this season. We just got to get it together as a team because no one man can do it. We don't have any superstars."
Jefferson is quick to give Duncan credit for keeping him off his spot, and sometimes even preventing passes from going inside to him.
Corbin said the Jazz also need to execute better, and that means setting better screens, making better passes and getting the ball deeper in to Jefferson.
Jefferson said he needs to do a better job of holding his position against the physical Duncan.
"I'm just going to stand my spot, let him do all the fighting and tell my teammates to give me the ball," Jefferson said.
Despite using the word "unraveling," Jefferson insisted the team chemistry that he raved about all year remains intact.
"It's been a roller coaster ride all year," he said. "We've been through it and always find our way to bounce back. I think we got one more bounce back in us."
The Spurs expect as much.
San Antonio center Boris Diaw knows Salt Lake City is a tough place to play.
"We know the third game will be the hardest in the series," Diaw said.
Corbin, who learned from Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan, said Sloan relished these situations.
"Your back is up against wall," he said. "Who's going to continue to fight? That's what you want to see in these situations. It's easy to fold your tent and go home and say, `Oh, it's too much to do.' But fighters fight, competitors compete. Guys that want to quit will quit."
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