Embarrassing. —Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson
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SAN ANTONIO — One word crossed Al Jefferson's lips in a muted tone when he was asked to describe what had just happened to him and the Utah Jazz on the AT&T Center court.
The night was inexplicable for Paul Millsap — the worst he'd ever been part of during his NBA career. "Tough" was the description Gordon Hayward uttered a few times. Devin Harris admitted it was "a little demoralizing."
Game 2 was SOOOOO BAD for the Jazz, even Spurs coach Gregg Popovich kind of came to their defense.
The Jazz were hounded, hammered and humiliated by San Antonio — and that was just the first half. When the final buzzer finally blared its merciful sound, the Jazz were on the extremely short end of a 114-83 rout Wednesday night.
The Spurs — after beating the Jazz by an average of 23 points in their first two playoff games — will take a 2-0 series lead into Utah for Game 3 on Saturday night.
"We had a good night. They had a poor night," Popovich, the 2012 NBA coach of the year, said. "This was just a matter of them having a bad, bad night. ... It happens to all of us."
Almost amazingly, this wasn't a historically bad playoff showing by the Jazz. They've shot worse and put up fewer points than in this one.
It just looked like horrible history in the making — and felt like it for those involved.
Millsap was flabbergasted after a complete team no-show, which included some pretty ugly stats: a 20-0 first-half run by the Spurs, 23.4 percent shooting by Utah in the first half, an 11-point second quarter, two players leading the team in scoring with just 10 points apiece.
"I can't explain it. I especially can't explain it tonight. They just came out and just whooped us," Millsap said. "It could be the worst ever (playoff loss) for us. I never witnessed something like that."
No Jazz team had been bamboozled and beaten down quite like this for more than a decade. This was Utah's first 30-point playoff loss since 2001 when it fell to Dallas in a 3-2 first-round series defeat 107-77.
It even gave Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals — that ugly 96-54 loss at Chicago — a 21st century rival for being the worst game in Jazz playoff history. (Other worsts: Utah scored seven points in a quarter vs. Seattle in 2000, 23 in a half in the loss to the Bulls and shot 13.6 percent in a half vs. the Lakers in 1997. If that makes stunned Jazz fans feel better.)
"It's a tough, tough loss for us," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "But, you know what, these guys did what they were supposed to do on their home court and win these two ballgames. We got to make sure to get our mindset to go home and win some games."
That might take a herculean effort after these two confidence-zapping games in which it seemed the Alamo basement might be easier to find than the nonexistent Jazz offense.
"We're going to leave this one down here in San Antonio," Millsap said, "and move on to the next one."
Unfortunately for the Jazz — an underdog team that defied expectations just to get into the playoffs — they could've said those words in the first half.
Utah fell behind quickly, missing its first seven shots en route to an early 17-4 deficit.
It got better for the Jazz momentarily — but then it got much, much, MUCH worse.
Derrick Favors and Paul Millsap led a temporary charge as the Jazz cut the Spurs' lead to five at 31-26.
But in order, Favors and then the Jazz were taken out of the game — one by Corbin, the others by Popovich's crew.
After Favors exited and Al Jefferson entered with 6:50 remaining in the opening half, San Antonio went on a massive 20-0 run, hitting four 3-pointers and simply blowing the Jazz out of the building.
Remember that little fort in downtown Antonio?
More like, forget the AT&T Center.
The killer run, Jefferson said, "just showed that they had a lot of energy and they did what they were supposed to do."
Added Millsap: "It's just like they kicked into another gear. We cut it down to five. They brought their guys back in and they just pushed it out."
With spurs marks in their backsides, things didn't get any better in the second half for the Jazz. San Antonio outscored Utah 34-25 in the third quarter before a contest was held to allow fans to don Spurs uniforms to finish off the Jazz in the final quarter (or so it seemed).
It wasn't the Big Three that doomed Utah, either.
Early on, when it mattered most, it was the Tiny Two of — you guessed it — Danny Green (13 first-half points) and Kawhi Leonard (12 of his 17 in the opening half) who did most of the early damage.
Green had three 3-pointers in the Spurs' spurt, and the ex-San Diego State rookie scored five points during that dominating stretch.
"We were hustling and thought our effort was there for the most part, but we couldn't get the ball to fall in the hole," Corbin said. "Then they came down and got easy shots or make a three-point shot. It kind of took the spirit a little bit from us."
Seven Spurs ended up in double figures, led by Tony Parker's 18 points and nine assists. San Antonio shot 57.3 percent overall and 10-for-22 from deep while also punishing the Jazz in the paint, 62-36.
"This is a great ballclub," Corbin added. "We have to learn that this is how you have to play in the playoffs."
Josh Howard and Big Al were the only double-figure scorers for the Jazz with 10 points apiece in a 34.4 percent shooting night. The Jazz scored 17 points in the first quarter and just 11 in the second.
"They're just a great team," Jefferson said. "They did what they supposed to do on their home floor. They jumped out on us, put their foot on our neck and never released."
Kindly, Tim Duncan (12 points, 13 rebounds) took his foot off of Jefferson's throat long enough for him to get out that sentence.
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