San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz +6 (Total: 202.5)
These two franchises actually have a ton in common. Both are relatively small markets that generate next to no national interest, despite being easily the two most consistent franchises in the NBA over the last 20 years. The Spurs were able to take it a few steps further, capturing four titles, but the Jazz’s run of 18 playoff appearances in 19 years may not be equaled any time soon.
San Antonio is legitimately back. As in “NBA title contender” back. As in, home court advantage throughout the entire playoffs, including the Finals (assuming the Bulls aren’t going to be there, which seems like a safe assumption after last night). And before NBA fans groan and grumble about the “boring” Spurs, they need to watch this team play first. Tony Parker is electric, and would be a solid third on my MVP ballot, should I ever be accidentally allotted one… This is also easily the deepest team in the NBA with a bench that the Heat, Bulls, Thunder and especially the Lakers would KILL for. They can score, they can defend, they are deep, they have tremendous composure and offensive balance. And they have Coach Pop.
The first two games of this series have been brutal for the Jazz. They weren’t even competitive in the two games in San Antonio, at one point trailing 68-32 in the second game. Simply brutal. But oddly enough, this should be too disconcerting for Jazz fans. This is actually the script for most of the season. No team in the league ran more hot and cold, depending on whether they were at home or on the road than the Utah Jazz. They were a blistering 25-8 at home this season. They were a horrific 11-24 on the road. That margin is by far the widest win margin in the entire NBA.
The point is; the Jazz are a different team at home. In fact, they are a very, very good one. I think they will play with manic energy and intensity tonight, and have a good shot to win the game straight up. They do not have any personnel advantages over the Spurs, so I have no position-by-position breakdown for WHY this phenomena will occur. In fact, it doesn’t make a ton of empirical sense. But the trend of home brilliance immediately following road ineptitude is incontrovertible. It’s been the Jazz mantra all season long. This series is by all means done. The Spurs will advance. But tonight, they actually meet some resistance. At least enough for the Jazz to cover with the six points they are being allotted.
Free Pick: Utah Jazz +6