Leonard, Green lead Spurs to rout over Utah
SAN ANTONIO – With an almost blank expression on his face, it was impossible to tell that San Antonio rookie Kawhi Leonard had just played a leading role in his team’s 114-83 conquest of Utah Wednesday at the AT&T Center.
It wasn’t much different with Danny Green, another member of the Spurs’ supporting cast who took center stage.
While they might not have been impressed with their play, the Jazz had to be after the two nearly outscored them on their own in the first half as the Spurs, with their 12th straight victory, took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series.
“We were just knocking down open shots, getting in transition and finding each other,” Leonard said. “It felt good. I’ve been watching the playoffs my while life. Now I’m finally able to play in the games.”
How dominant were Green and Leonard during the first two quarters?
Not only did both surpass their regular-season scoring averages with 13 and 12 points, respectively, their combined total almost surpassed Utah’s entire total of 26.
The Spurs led by 25 at that point, after which their only real concern was staying healthy. Their advantage grew as large as 38 in the fourth quarter, and the final margin was the third-largest in franchise playoff history.
The first-round series shifts to Utah for Saturday’s Game 3. Tipoff is 10 p.m. EST.
Having been thoroughly dominated in San Antonio, the Jazz had no choice but to hope that a change of scenery will help them challenge the surging Spurs.
“It’s a tough, tough loss,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. “They did what they were supposed to do. We have to have the mindset that we’re going home to win games.”
It was just the latest example of the Spurs’ vaunted depth, a decisive factor in Sunday’s 106-91 victory and a major reason they were able to claim the best record in the Western Conference.
Green, who had only two points in the opener, scored all 13 in the first half while Leonard finished with 17.
The Spurs have developed a more offensive style in recent years, a far cry from their defensive-minded championship teams. But they revisited those days on Wednesday, holding the Jazz to just 34.4 percent shooting with 15 turnovers.
Not that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was ready to take credit for Utah’s poor marksmanship.
“It was just a matter of them having a bad, bad night,” he said. “It happens to all of us, and it happened to them tonight.”
Utah scored nine unanswered points to cut what had been a double-digit deficit to five, 31-26. But the Spurs, led by their unlikely duo, blew the game open with a 20-0 run late in the second quarter.
Green had 11 points during the streak, including three 3-pointers, while Leonard added five. Their quality play offset quiet starts from usual stalwarts Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
It was San Antonio’s second overwhelming run of the game. The Spurs scored 15 of 17 points during one early stretch to push ahead 17-4. Leonard provided the impetus with seven points, including a 3 off Boris Diaw’s drive-and-kick. Green capped the run with a dunk.
Reserve guard Gary Neal became the eighth Spur to score in the opening quarter with a layup that put the Spurs up 28-17.
San Antonio failed to score on nine of their first 10 possessions of the second half, allowing Utah to climb back in the game. That’s when Green and Leonard returned, however, providing the Jazz with a problem for which they had no answer.
“My job is just to bring energy,” Green said. “I’m just being more focused, more intense, trying to be more comfortable when I’m on the floor.”
NOTES: This was the second-largest playoff loss in Utah history, trailing only a 96-54 defeat by Chicago in the 1998 Finals. … The Spurs are 20-1 in their NBA history after taking a 2-0 series lead. Their only loss came to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004. … Spurs legend David Robinson was on hand to help present coach Gregg Popovich with the NBA Coach of the Year award before tipoff. Popovich also won the award in 2003. … The Jazz flew home after Sunday’s game before returning to San Antonio Tuesday night.