These are the stats that should make San Antonio's future playoff opponents quiver after the Spurs closed out their four-game sweep of Utah Monday night with an 87-81 win at EnergySolutions Arena: None of San Antonio's starters shot better than 40 percent from the field in Game 4. None scored more than 11 points, and the starting frontcourt combined to shoot just 5-of-18 from the field. And yet the Spurs dominated most of the game. They led for the final 36 minutes. They were up as much as 21 points on the road against a team desperate to avoid elimination. And they did it with nine players seeing 20 or more minutes of action, with a bench that became their most productive unit. Now, as the Spurs move further in the playoffs, whoever they end up facing may look at Monday's game and question how any team can keep pace with such a lethal wave of weapons.
Heavy lied the crown last season as the top-seeded Spurs suffered one of the worst first-round upsets in playoff history. This year, they're the ones dishing out the embarrassment in their opening matchup. The Spurs cruised past the Jazz 114-83 in Game 2 on Wednesday in San Antonio to take a 2-0 lead, leaving little doubt as to how this series should end.
Two weeks ago, this would have felt like a San Antonio walkover. The Spurs have destroyed the league of late, outscoring opponents by nearly 16 points per 100 possessions -- an unthinkable number -- over their last 20 games and generally peaking at the right time. The Jazz have been a nice story, but they are the worst defensive team among all playoff clubs, precisely the kind of slow-footed group the Spurs slice apart with fast-moving pick-and-rolls, quick passes and gobs of three-pointers. The Spurs scored well and rained threes in taking three of four from the Jazz, and their only loss came in a late-season game in which Gregg Popovich rested Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
In the first elimination game of the season, four days before the playoffs are even set to begin, the Utah Jazz have advanced while the Phoenix Suns head home for another long summer.
BOSTON -- "I call them 'meaningful games,' " said Kevin O'Connor, the general manager of the Utah Jazz. "This is a meaningful game tonight."
BOSTON -- To deal or not to deal? When the Nets met the Celtics here Friday, the rumors of impending moves carried more importance than the outcome of the game. The Celtics' 107-94 victory wasn't so intriguing as the speculation around Boston's stars or the odd coupling of New Jersey center Brook Lopez and point guard Deron Williams, in which the former may be offered in a package to Orlando for Dwight Howard in hope of convincing the latter to re-sign with the Nets.
The NBA is back. On Tuesday, the league released its compacted 66-game schedule, filled with enough back-to-back-to-backs (42 overall, compared to 64 in the 50-game 1998-99 season) to make players groan and coach-class-flying beat writers groan even louder. Here's a look at a 10 interesting dates:
It was March 7, two weeks after the Knicks had acquired Carmelo Anthony and 20 minutes since they'd faced the Utah Jazz. Having recently lost their two best players, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, to free agency and trades, the beleaguered Jazz were no match for New York, who rode a 65-point performance from their new dynamic duo of Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony to a 22-point win. After the easy rout of the Jazz, the Summer of LeBron and a bevy of big trades, Stoudemire was asked what everyone had long been wondering about the NBA: Is it turning into an unbalanced league of big-market haves and small-market have-nots?
NEWARK, N.J. -- Four foreign-born lottery picks for the first time, the fourth straight year a John Calipari-coached point guard (Brandon Knight) lands in the top eight and a ninth straight year the son of a former NBA player (Klay Thompson) has had his name called. Let's break down the 2011 NBA Draft.
NEW YORK -- It was both sad and pathetic, revealing and ominous. Watching the Utah Jazz wilt under a barrage of three-pointers from the Knicks on Monday -- most of which were of the uncontested variety -- was like watching a model franchise unravel in real time.
If you held any hope the NBA could avoid a summer lockout, then this day marks the death of your optimism. On this day the Utah Jazz traded arguably the best point guard in basketball -- the second coming of John Stockton -- in a preemptive move that highlights, underlines and altogether exposes everything that most of the owners have grown to hate about the current system.
The play is called "22," and when the Utah Jazz run it, they always start on the left side of the court. But against the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 9, when Jerry Sloan signaled for 22, Deron Williams decided to start on the right side instead. "That was it," Williams said, and while nobody is implying that one play in the middle of a regular-season game precipitated the departure of a Hall of Fame coach and an All-Star point guard, it was the final act in a team's undoing.
Eight years ago, Jerry Sloan walked out of the gym during a Utah Jazz practice. He was upset over the divisiveness within his team. The belief among several members of the organization was that some players were rallying around backup point guard Mark Jackson at the expense of starter John Stockton. That's why Sloan threatened to retire then and there.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan stepped down Thursday after 23 seasons and 1,127 wins at the helm of the Utah Jazz, saying he simply ran out of energy to coach anymore.
BOSTON -- Deron Williams sat slumped in his locker, uniform still on, ice bags wrapped tightly around both knees. Splashed across his face was the bewildered look of a man who recognizes a problem yet couldn't quite pinpoint how to fix it. Friday night's 110-86 loss to the Celtics was Utah's third straight, one that followed back-to-back defeats to the woeful Wizards and Nets.
Al Jefferson broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this season on Wednesday, leading the Jazz over the Clippers in Utah. Eclipsing 30 points was a fairly regular occurrence for Jefferson during his two healthy years in Minnesota, covering 2007-08 and 50 games of 2008-09, when he accomplished the feat 18 times and was a 20-point, 10-rebound mainstay for the Timberwolves.
While other young players explode, Paul Millsap simmers. He improves steadily. He surprises routinely.
MIAMI -- By the fifth and final day of the 2006 pre-draft camp in Orlando, most of the scouts and coaches had gone home. The Utah Jazz contingent remained, hoping for one more look at a chunky power forward nobody else seemed to want. Through the first four days of camp, Paul Millsap appeared out of shape and out of place, unable to create his shot or hold his position. But on the last day, Millsap began to assert himself, demonstrating how he led the nation in rebounding two years in a row at Louisiana Tech. The Jazz staff reasoned that Millsap was not the kind of player built for pre-draft camps, which tend to showcase shooters and drivers. He needed a system.
After looking vulnerable in their first-round series against the Thunder, the Lakers left little doubt about their elite level of play after dominating the Jazz in their Western Conference semifinal series. With Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol looking virtually unstoppable, the Lakers swept the undersized Jazz out of the playoffs with a 111-96 victory Monday in Salt Lake City, setting up a conference final with the Suns.
A potential game-ending tip-in by Wesley Matthews bounced out of the hoop, sealing Utah's 111-110 loss to the Lakers in Game 3 of the Western semifinals Saturday night. Now down 3-0, the Jazz face the kind of comeback no team has ever accomplished in the NBA. And with the Lakers coming off a game in which Kobe Bryant got more help from outside than inside for a change, the Jazz aren't likely to be the first.
While the Cavaliers and the Celtics take turns grinding on each other's muscles and nerves in their deadlocked second-round series, the Magic are methodically dismantling their playoff foes. Stan Van Gundy's crew won ugly against Charlotte in the first round, with Vince Carter mostly AWOL and Dwight Howard benching himself with heedless fouls. Now Orlando is winning pretty against Atlanta, making more than half its shots in the first three games while holding the Hawks to an average of 81 points.
The Lakers are clearly much bigger. For now, they are much better. And after two games, they hold a dominating lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series, defeating the Jazz for the 16th consecutive time at the Staples Center with a 111-103 decision Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Lakers continue to delicately walk a tightrope. They also continue to remain upright. Despite getting a scare from the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of their best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series, the Lakers walked out of Staples Center with a hard-fought 104-99 victory Sunday afternoon for a number of different reasons.
Fighting off a first-round upset, Nuggets All-Star Carmelo Anthony finally got the assistance for which he begged, and it resulted in a 116-102 victory over the Jazz on Wednesday. The Jazz still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 and could close out in Salt Lake City on Friday. But they still have some work to do since Denver got back a modicum of confidence.
Home court has indeed been an advantage early in the playoffs, with the host team posting a 23-7 record through Sunday. Even when the games moved to the court of the lower-seeded clubs, the home teams were 10-4.
Carmelo Anthony was brilliant in scoring 39 points in Game 4 against the Jazz, but he got little help for the second straight game as the Nuggets fell 117-106 to a Utah team that played the way playoff teams are supposed to play. A home date Wednesday may allow the Nuggets to extend the series, but with the passive manner in which they've played, a win in Game 5 would only delay their now-inevitable series loss. Let's take a peek at how the Jazz went up 3-1 Sunday night.
The Utah Jazz may be short-handed but the Denver Nuggets are the ones groping for solutions after the Jazz pasted them -- 105-93 in a contest that wasn't that close -- to take a 2-1 lead in their best of-seven first-round series.
DENVER -- Carmelo Anthony hadn't even crossed the three-point line when he first felt the contact. It was early in the second quarter of Monday's game against Utah and Anthony was drifting toward the paint, looking to position himself on the left block. Before he could get there -- or anywhere close, for that matter -- he was met by Jazz forward C.J. Miles, who leveled his shoulder into the chest of the Nuggets' star and gradually lowered it to the point where he was pushing Anthony backward. It was a lineman drill, and Anthony was the sled. A smiling Anthony cast an exasperated glance over at referee Ken Mauer, who looked back and allowed the play to continue.
DENVER -- Who said injuries were an issue in the NBA playoffs? One day after the Trail Blazers stunned the Suns in Phoenix, banged up Utah pulled off an upset of their own, outlasting Denver 114-111 to tie their first-round series.
Two days into the playoffs and we've already had a brawl, a suspension and an upset. In the East, a late-game dustup between the Heat and Celtics resulted in an ejection and one-game ban for Kevin Garnett, while the Trail Blazers -- without Brandon Roy and playing in Phoenix -- prevailed over the Suns.
The Nuggets put aside their worries of playing without George Karl for at least one night to take Game 1 from Jazz, 126-113. In addition to little defense and a lot of sharp-shooting (the teams combined to shoot 56 percent), the first-round matchup ended with another Jazz player on the injured list and Denver's Carmelo Anthony showing his best and worst sides. Consider the following:
This is not where the Utah Jazz anticipated being.
Before 16 teams prepare for the start of the postseason Saturday, nine teams have to figure out their seedings on the last day of the regular season. Here's what to watch for during Wednesday's key games. (All stats and records are through April 13; all times Eastern.)
Every coach preaches the vital importance of every game, whether it is played in the first week of the season or the last. And while players typically nod in collective assent, most fail to understand that a loss in November is just as costly as one a week before the playoffs.
Carlos Boozer chooses to hold some grudges, and others he lets go. He still remembers being stranded until the second round of the draft eight years ago.
Balancing payroll with productivity is a never-ending struggle for NBA front offices. For every bargain found off the waiver wire, there is an overpaid free agent signed in hopes of playoff success.
Now that the Grizzlies have climbed above .500 and Lionel Hollins has been named Western Conference Coach of the Month for December, the bandwagon is rolling for power forward Zach Randolph to be named to the All-Star team.
You could point to Carlos Boozer's impressive stats and Utah's key victories as evidence of his All-Star-caliber season. The 18 double-doubles that rank third in the NBA, the 21.3 points and 10.9 rebounds he's averaged since mid-November, the Jazz's 16-12 record despite injuries to several key players -- yep, all appear reason enough to dub Boozer an All-Star. Again.
LOS ANGELES -- This wasn't the way the season was supposed to begin for Paul Millsap. It's about a week before Utah's season opener and Millsap is sitting in the middle of the bench, his arms folded, as the Jazz tip off a preseason game against the Clippers. In the offseason, Millsap signed a four-year, $32 million offer sheet with the Trail Blazers, and after Utah matched it, he hoped he would be the Jazz's new starting power forward.
With the possible exception of the NL West, baseball's division races have nothing on the NBA in the dwindling days of September in terms of urgency, suspense and unresolved issues. Here are some biggies looming over the pro hoops landscape as players and coaches prepare for their close-ups on media day:
The Jazz have officially decided to match the Trail Blazers' offer for Paul Millsap, thus committing to keep the 6-foot-8 power forward in Utah, a league source told SI.com on Thursday.
With baseball's Aug. 17 signing deadline fast approaching and the Nationals barely communicating with No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg -- agent Scott Boras' alleged target price of a $50 million signing bonus could have something to do with that -- commissioner Bud Selig didn't sound worried Tuesday. "They're very sincere about signing Strasburg,'' Selig told reporters at the All-Star Game, "and I'm hopeful they will, and I know they are going to make him a very meaningful offer.'' In other words, business as usual.
There will be teams that will make their layups down the stretch. There will be teams that will not fall apart after turning a 22-point deficit into a two-possession game. There will be teams that can and will beat the Lakers if they continue to play the same way they did in eliminating the Jazz 107-96 (BOX | RECAP) in five games Monday night.
Five NBA playoff observations from a night that featured a pair of unexpected blowouts and an escape act in Salt Lake City:
LOS ANGELES -- Second verse, same as the first.
LOS ANGELES -- Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has been around this game long enough that he doesn't need to sugarcoat anything, not that he ever has during his 21 years in Salt Lake City.
OVERVIEW: These teams met last spring, too, when the talent and achievement gaps between them were narrower, and the Lakers won the second-round series in six games. Phil Jackson and his players have been doing their duty in touting the opponents' strengths, but few are probably picking up what they're putting down. "There are all kinds of matchup situations that are a strong advantage [for Utah] in most sequences that we all recognize,'' the Lakers' coach said. The Lakers were runaway winners in the West, while the Jazz slid into this matchup mess by losing seven of their final nine. And they have the worst road record (15-26) of the eight West playoff teams
Because who wants to talk about the economy?
For a guy who's won more than 1,000 games as an NBA coach, Jerry Sloan makes the process sound so easy.
The NBA is widely considered to be a young league, owing mostly to the age of its players and the target of so much of its marketing. That's how we get 19-year-old franchise players, edgy footwear commercials, "tweets'' from the office of a commissioner who fondly remembers 45-rpm records (maybe even 78s) and, until a couple of years ago, team scouts squeezing elbow-to-elbow into the bleachers of cramped, sweaty high school gyms, lusting and fretting all at once over their clubs' next big draft gambles.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Utah Jazz forward Matt Harpring is out of Wednesday night's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a bruised back.
There can be no better value in the NBA than Utah power forward Paul Millsap, who among players on the Jazz's active roster ranks first in rebounds (8.7), second in points (14.4) and blocks (1.2), and last in salary ($797,581). All three numbers should climb after Millsap becomes a restricted free agent next summer, earning him more money and a larger role.
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
The Northwest Division is the home of identity crises this offseason.
As the Lakers and Jazz prepare to settle their second-round series over the next two or three games, SI.com asked an NBA scout to assess what factors will determine which team advances to the Western Conference finals. With the 2-2 series resuming Wednesday in Los Angeles, the scout identified these five keys:
He enters the game to the sound of high-pitched screams, the kind of reception usually reserved for teeny-bopper stars like Zac Efron or Miley Cyrus. (Then again, some of the screamers are probably fans of all three.) Signs bearing marriage proposals are scattered throughout Utah's EnergySolutions Arena, and mothers and daughters alike swoon with his every move.
It's one of the great mysteries of the NBA this season, right up there with the Rockets continuing to soar without Yao Ming, the Bulls' misplaced mojo and Isiah Thomas keeping his job.
The NBA All-Star Game will take place this weekend in New Orleans. While much of the focus will be on the host Hornets, there is another team with a tie to the Big Easy making sweet music these days. The Jazz -- a franchise that moved from New Orleans to Salt Lake City in 1979 -- might be the NBA's hottest team heading into the break.
The NBA might want to consider, if only for this season, adding an extra "wild'' to the familiar (and ripped-off classic TV title) description of the left half of its competition. As in, the wild, wild, wild West.
Five ... four ... three ... two ... one ... Each week we'll take a look at five intriguing topics around the NBA, from the front office to the court.
SALT LAKE CITY -- For awhile this felt a lot like a European playoff game in one of those Greek or Spanish arenas where the fans never shut up and every basket is greeted as a tragedy or a miracle. Manu Ginobili learned to play in this kind of setting, and he looked entirely comfortable while bulling his way to the foul line for 15 fourth-quarter points to turn a tight Game 4 into a 91-79 Spurs rout.
No, the Utah Jazz has not disbanded since John Stockton and Karl Malone took their short shorts and their pick-and-roll precision into retirement. Quite the contrary. The Jazz has reached the Western Conference finals, its furthest incursion into the postseason since 1998, when S&M lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the Finals.
SAN ANTONIO -- Are the Utah Jazz too young to win the championship this year? We'll find out Tuesday night.
SAN ANTONIO -- The Spurs held home-court advantage Sunday with their 108-100 opening win in the Western finals, but that result seemed of secondary importance as Gregg Popovich and Jerry Sloan fumed afterwards. They were like two old pals each claiming indignation and fury based on what they'd seen.
Humpty Dumpty: When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.
It is warm, way too warm for spring in San Francisco. At seven in the evening in May, it's 70-something and sunny, like some Al Gore nightmare come to life. People arrive at AT&T Park suspicious of the weather, in jeans and a sweatshirt, fleece and khakis, as if this were the old Candlestick and winter might descend in a moment.
Pointing to a team's mettle, its ability to rise above pressure and execute with everything seeming ready to fall apart, seems like a cop-out. Most of the time, it's a fanciful notion used to hide an observer's inability or unwillingness to point out the real reasons (rebounds, free throws, turnovers) one team won and one team lost.
In recognition of Mother's Day, here's a look at the impact of the Top 10 mothers in sports.
Also in this column: • Importance of the regular season? • Doc's extension a good move • NBA players help one of their own
These days I use my old baseball cards as bookmarks. I had collected cards as a kid, and I still have a shoebox of them in my apartment. When I start reading a new book, I blindly reach into the shoebox, root around and pull one out. The cards get bent and frayed -- but at least this way I get to see them.
Matt Barnes is a first bus kind of guy.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Guard Brandon Roy of the Portland Trail Blazers and forward Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors headline the NBA All-Rookie Team, which was announced on Tuesday.
I got a kick out of Peyton Manning's Mastercard commerical where the guy serving coffee gets knocked over by a blast of steam in the face and Manning urges him to "rub some dirt on it." In this age of pitch counts and other bubblewrap training techniques and long preventative shut-downs, it can be hard to believe that the athlete's credo once resembled the black knight who loses assorted limbs in Monty Python & The Holy Grail and keeps fighting while insisting, "Come on, it's only a flesh wound!"
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- The line formed at Temple Square and it flowed in only one direction. Thousands of Jazz fans buzzing with intensity (or was it alcohol?) piled into the cozy confines of EnergySolutions Arena, a facility that better resembles a college venue (the fans courtside are literally on top of the players) than your run of the mill NBA viewing station.
SI.com's Ian Thomsen interviewed an NBA advance scout to break down the Jazz-Warriors matchup.
I had to ask the question. As Tracy McGrady sat at the podium in the bowels of EnergySolutions Arena, barely 30 minutes removed from a crushing Game 6 defeat, he answered questions ranging from the Rockets' shaky performance to Andrei Kirilenko's pesky defense. Then, the thought occurred to me: is Saturday's Game Seven the biggest game of McGrady's career?
This is one of the best things ever to happen in the NBA.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- The signs were everywhere, like a series of mirages. Perhaps they were not visible to the outsider, but for Jazz fans they were as clear to see as the Wasatch Mountains.
As I watched a replay of last week's absurdly overcrowded, absurdly premature Democratic presidential debate at South Carolina State University, my thoughts suddenly turned to the NBA playoffs.
As we did last season, and the previous year, it's time for our third annual trip through some of my favorite stories from the previous NBA season.
There's just something about a 6-9, weepy millionaire that turns the rest of us into pop psychologists. I'm sure I'm not the only one who spent the first week of the playoffs wondering why Utah's Andrei Kirilenko was so frustrated, and why his play has been so off for most of 2006-07. AK's team is flourishing, finally, but his production has tailed off: he established career-lows in points, rebounds, and steals in his sixth season, playing his third-lowest minutes per game mark (29.1).
HOUSTON (AP) -- Each of the Houston Rockets have to make 10 consecutive free throws before they are allowed to leave the practice floor every day.
As he leads his Cavaliers into the playoffs against the Washington Wizards on Sunday, Cleveland coach Mike Brown will measure the moment against his NBA beginnings in 1992, when he broke in as a video guy with the Denver Nuggets. He equipped a cubicle off the weight room in McNichols Arena with a pillow, toothbrush and change of clothes, and grabbed catnaps on the training table. When he finished an edit he'd taxi the tapes out to the houses of coaches, who might slip him a twenty as a thank you. "I was going 'deck-to-deck,' all by myself," says Brown, referring to the clunky technology of that era. "But I wouldn't swap the experience for anything. There's been a carryover to everything I've done in this business. Breaking down tapes, I had to be meticulous."
With apologies to John Lennon: Imagine there's no conference/It's easy if you try.... In such a world, NBA playoff teams would be seeded 1 through 16 without regard to conference affiliation, meaning that the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks could meet the Phoenix Suns or the San Antonio Spurs (the second and third seeds, respectively) for the NBA championship. In such a world, we would not have to concern ourselves with the likes of the New Jersey Nets and the Orlando Magic, the bottom-feeders of the (L)Eastern Conference bracket.
Thursday we submitted our official NBA awards ballots, but those results only begin to explain what's gone on this season. Let's try to make further sense of the last six months, shall we?
Nicolas Batum has long arms, leaps high and speaks with a French accent. He will be playing in an NBA city within three years -- or maybe next season.
For all those angry Indiana Pacers fans who consider their team's 37-win pace to be an outright embarrassment this season, understand this: It really isn't much of a drop-off from what you should have expected. If you had higher expectations going into the season, then you were misguided.
It happened two nights before Christmas. Six minutes into a game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets center Yao Ming jumped to block a shot. As he did, teammate Chuck Hayes toppled toward him. Yao remembers a great weight bearing down on his right leg, then a sharp pain. He sank to the floor at Houston's Toyota Center, clutching his right knee.
As previewed by Ian Thomsen on Friday, Sunday afternoon was quite the afternoon for pro hoops. Here's what we learned ... 1. More than any other team, the Detroit Pistons are a walking (not running) example of some of the worst stereotypes regarding NBA basketball.
The Mavs play at Phoenix on Sunday afternoon in a matchup of the teams with the best records. But it's no April Fools' joke to suggest that it won't be the biggest game on the NBA slate that day. The Jazz-Rockets contest in Houston could feature even greater playoff intensity.
There's a lot of talk lately about either the National Basketball Association or National Hockey League moving a team to Las Vegas.
There doesn't seem to be a shortage of candidates for the NBA's Most Improved Player award this season.
SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- The Indiana Pacers may have more urgent worries than their long losing skid.
In any other year, it would be a no-brainer. Coach of the Year? Obviously it has to go to Avery Johnson.
As the Dallas Mavericks quietly chase history -- emphasis on quietly because they are the least-noticed great team in quite a while -- thoughts turn to the best teams of all time. Could the Mavs, 51-9 as this is written, join that list? Old-timers may demur, but what Dallas is doing this season is remarkable. Even if you dismiss the Eastern Conference -- and please do -- take a look at the West, against which the Mavs have a 32-6 mark.
Dirk Nowitzki was rewarded for lifting the Dallas Mavericks to the top of the NBA.
It was truly sad (and a little nausea-inducing) to see the Clippers' Shaun Livingston go down Monday with a dislocated left kneecap that will sideline the third-year point guard for the rest of the season. Another significant injury means the Clippers will have to wait even longer for Livingston to truly emerge.
The year was 1992. Another NBA trade deadline day was in full swing. My phone rang every five minutes with another rumor, some fantastical and others with an element of truth. A few calls came from people inside the league who had very good information, and others were from my basketball fanatic friends, who had absolutely no information, but plenty of imagination.