Jazz • Combo of Jefferson, Millsap and Favors could be Utah's best chance.
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It seems silly to suggest the Jazz use a big lineup in the first round of the playoffs and attempt to overpower San Antonio, which is anchored by future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan.
Upon further review, however, Utah's best chance against the heavily favored Spurs might be putting Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors on the court at the same time.
Coach Tyrone Corbin turned to the big lineup out of necessity late in the season, after injuries eliminated wing players Josh Howard, C.J. Miles and Raja Bell from his rotation.
Corbin's move was a major reason the Jazz were able to win their final five regular-season games.
Jefferson, Millsap and Favors combined for 57 points, 42 rebounds and eight blocked shots in a 100-88 win over Phoenix that clinched Utah's playoff berth.
Before Friday morning's practice, Corbin said the Jazz must "be aggressive in everything we do" against San Antonio.
He plans to coach aggressively, which means gambling that his big lineup can effectively defend the high-scoring Spurs.
"We'll find some time for it," Corbin said. "They spread the floor so well, so you have to make sure we can get out to the 3-point shooters. … But we'll look at different things."
Bell, just back from his knee injury, has watched the Jazz's big lineup bulldoze unsuspecting opponents.
"We're just too big," he said. "Teams can't match up, especially with Paul at the three. … A lot of threes in this league like to post up, but they aren't going to post him up. So it really gives us a different look, and teams, quite frankly, aren't always prepared for it."
The sneak-attack aspect of the Jazz's big lineup won't be a factor against the Spurs, who will undoubtedly have time to plan a strategy against it.
Still, Jefferson believes Utah can create mismatches on offense and cover well enough on defense if Corbin decides to play Tall Ball.
"We are a better rebounding group, on the offense end, and we're a better defensive group," Jefferson said. "I just think it's going to cause problems.
"San Antonio is a great team with great coaches. They can adjust. But I think it might cause some problems because … we're pretty good with that big lineup. Real good."
Jefferson agrees with Bell that Millsap's versatility is a key to the effectiveness of the Jazz's big lineup.
"Paul is a special type of player," Jefferson said. "He can guard most threes, but most threes can't guard him."
Said Millsap: "It's not just me. It doesn't just help my game. It helps Favors out and Big Al, they can't really double him as much as they would when I'm at the four. It helps our defense, too."
San Antonio's possible counters to the Jazz's big lineup could include playing 7-footer Tiago Splitter alongside Duncan.
Versatile veteran Boris Diaw also gives coach Gregg Popovich a two-position forward to match up with Millsap.
"No matter who's out there," Millsap said, "San Antonio is pretty tough."
Utah coach Tyrone Corbin's "big" front court:
Player Height Weight Games Points Rebounds Blocks
Al Jefferson 6-10 289 61 19.3 9.6 1.7
Paul Millsap 6-8 253 64 16.6 8.8 0.8
Derrick Favors 6-10 248 65 8.8 6.5 1.0