Today the San Antonio Spurs start the 2012 NBA Playoff-opening series against the Utah Jazz, I spoke to Spencer Campbell from The Utah Jazz Blog to get his thoughts on the series.
Michael: Another 1-8 has pundits drawing comparisons to last season's Spurs-Grizzlies series. Are you with the group that thinks the Jazz are similar to the Grizzlies and so it could have the same results or do you see this as a completely different series itself?
Spencer: I see the new found lineup of Harris/Hayward/Millsap/Favors/Jefferson causing problems on both ends of the floor. I don't know if they will be as stingy on defense as the Grizzly lineup was last year, but the sample sizes look promising. The Spurs bench will cause us fits. The second unit has had a difficult time scoring for a little while now. The defense is there, but sometimes there are lapses on offense that don't allow the Jazz to keep or build the lead.
The Spurs have had some problems defending some of the better big man tandems in the NBA this season. Do you see that being something the Jazz should target going into the series?
I don't know why it has taken eight years for Al Jefferson to learn how to pass out of the double team, I am just glad that he has. We may see the Hi/Lo with Al and Millsap they are interchangeable when they run it. Millsap is definitely the better passer out of the two, but he is also the better cutter/slasher. The two have really grown together on and off the court this past year, it shows in how well the play/feed off of each other.
What are the chances Corbin sees the mismatches in the frontcourt and uses a front line that includes Jefferson, Milsap and Favors in spots to try to stop the Spurs' offense and kickstart runs in their favor?
I think this is a must. I mentioned the "Big" lineup above and the numbers are crazy good. This is from @Kpelton "The Jazz's big frontcourt (Millsap/Favors/Jefferson) has rebounded 59.7% of available misses. Chicago led the league at 53.5%" and this from @lockedonsports Jazz lineup of Millsap, Favors and Jefferson has outscored opponents 209 to 148 in 93 mins. Accuscore gives the Jazz a 7% chance to win this series. We have to play this lineup 20 minutes a game in order to even think about winning.
The Jazz have done very well during the second half of the season. How will that transition over into the playoffs?
I think the injuries to Bell and Howard actually helped the Jazz more than hurt them. The injuries forced Corbin's hand into playing guys at times that he might not have normally played them. The recent "playoff push" and five game winning streak will hopefully allow us to win a couple of games and keep the series competitive.
Since I looked into ways the Jazz could possibly create mismatches with the Spurs, let's go down a similar path. As a Jazz fan and blogger that sees the team much more than the four games I usually see them in every season, what is Utah's biggest weakness? Could it be lack of depth compared to the Spurs' bench or will it be elsewhere on the bench in the inexperience of Corbin against Pop? Could it be anything aside from that?
First, I would say experience. Pop and the core guys have been together for about ten years. That is crazy to think about. We have two players on the roster from the 2010 season. Everyone else is new. Second, playoff experience. You guys are running on 15 straight years of playoffs we are getting back after a short break. Third, and maybe the biggest one, is three point shooting. The Spurs are 1st in the league at 39% and we are 27th at 32%. It's not only the % that you make, but the amount. The Spurs take almost twice as many as the Jazz.
Let's both take the homer glasses off here. How does this series end? Do the Jazz "shock the world" and advance or will the Spurs continue their dominance from the regular season against the Jazz? How many games?
The Spurs have had the Jazz' number for the past 12 years minus a fluke 2010 season when we swept the season series. I say Spurs in five and a miracle of .4 seconds might push it to six.
Make sure to follow The Utah Jazz Blog for series coverage from a Jazz perspective and read my answers to Spencer's questions there tomorrow.