It feels okay that Al Jefferson seems defeated because, in a sense, the Jazz are done too. The Spurs made sure of that on Saturday night, defeating their ravenous home crowd and a pre-planned green-and-yellow balloon monsoon, as well as their celebrated three-headed monster frontcourt (Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors combined for 45 points and 33 rebounds). One extra pass was never enough for San Antonio. They’d make another. One wide open three or one easy layup were never enough either. Every Utah bucket in the second half was answered with an equally easier one. Jefferson did what he could with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but whether he got the better of Tim Duncan didn’t really matter. Big Al already had it figured out.
“We’re playing against a team that is at its peak, and I don’t see nobody beating ’em. … It’s a great team. I just take my hat off to ’em. Mad respect,” Jefferson told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Later, he added: “Right now they just playing well, man. I ain’t never seen nothing like this.”
To hear an opponent gush about the Spurs’ “peak” in 2012 seems almost perplexing. Duncan was supposed to have peaked in 2003, Ginobili in 2005. Tony Parker gets called the baby of the litter so often we forget the Frenchman is days away (literally) from turning 30 years old. Then there’s everybody else. Stephen Jackson became infinitely less interesting once he re-donned the Spurs’ black and silver. Tiago Splitter was always uninteresting. Boris Diaw would be called a shell of his former self – half the player he once was – if he wasn’t so often the brunt of jokes about his “growing” physique.
However, their style is only boring if you enjoy quick deaths rather than tortured victims.
Outside of Game 2, Utah has hung around, but it never felt like they belonged. San Antonio is shooting over 51 percent in the series, and have turned their offense into a revolving pick-n-roll tsunami, shattering any hope for a stern Jazz defense.
In Game 3, Utah’s frontcourt did damage, and Devin Harris (21 points) played like the former All-Star he is. But Gordon Hayward was only 1-for-10 from the floor, and now has just 12 points in the series’ last two games. Against the Spurs, there can’t be weak links. Utah’s only real chance is to throw the perfect game.
“If you lose to a team because you didn’t play your best, that’s one thing,” Jefferson told The Salt Lake Tribune. “If you’re playing your best and doing everything that you can, and you’re just playing against a team that’s better than you, that’s another one.”
Tonight, more than likely, the Jazz will lose again on their home court – a place they went 25-8 during the regular season – and the Spurs will move one step closer to the Finals. If Al Jefferson has any say, a future San Antonio championship is so inevitable he doesn’t feel bad about falling on his sword.
Will the Spurs win it all?
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