Monson: Glass half full or half empty
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If it's any consolation to the Jazz, and it shouldn't be, they won the last half against the Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday here.

They outscored San Antonio, 64-54, over that latter span.

Unfortunately for the Jazz, the first half counted, too.

But they didn't seem to grasp that idea, tossing the game in the air and wildly swinging a Ginzu knife, chopping the thing right down the middle, like a halved melon, and, at the end, tried to form it back together again for a happy, symmetrical whole.

A nice slice, but no dice.

The result - 108-100, Spurs - was all lopsided by then.

"The first half was terrible," Carlos Boozer said.

"We battled back in the second half," said Deron Williams.

"They outplayed us in the second half," said Tim Duncan.

"No two ways about it," Duncan said.

By then, it was far too late.

Jerry Sloan was livid at his players for their performance early on. In the locker room at the half, he fumed about his players' lack of effort, and, just as bad, about their "shaking our heads at each other," and a general lack of individual accountability for what they were doing wrong. He said the worst thing a coach can say about his team: He questioned their desire to compete.

"We were looking for excuses," he said.

"He didn't like the fact that we didn't play harder," said Matt Harpring. "He was disappointed. We have to lay our hearts on the line in this series. It was good that we came back, but it wasn't good that we gave up such a big lead earlier."

That lead piled up in equal measure with the Jazz's finger-pointing, all the way to 54-36 at the break.

Derek Fisher called the Jazz lapse, which worsened quickly in the second quarter, "a major funk." That's when a three-point deficit ballooned to 19 points at its peak, and, from there, really, against a team the quality of the Spurs, the game was over.

"Twenty points, to a team like this, is 40 points to another team," Williams said. "You can't come back [on] a team like this when you get down 20 points in the first half."

Live and let learn.

In the aftermath, by the tone of all the Jazz players, they seemed to have absorbed that lesson. More playoff instruction for them to fully digest and, then, use as fuel for what comes next. They've done exactly that so successfully against the Rockets and Warriors, but in smaller doses.

Against the Spurs, though, it will take more than pluck and resilience and gumption. It will take all of that and precise, mature execution, too, for them to face the challenges ahead.

"They're not going to make a lot of mistakes," Harpring said. "They pick you apart. They're a good, good team."

It mattered to some of the Jazz that they did come back to play better over the last 24 minutes, boosted mainly by Williams' remarkable 18 points - and 34 overall - in the fourth quarter. "Deron Williams was fantastic," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "And they made a great run."

Kirilenko was willing to take solace in that last part: "It's a good example that we can play against the Spurs. We're able to compete against them - if we just keep our heads in the game. When we execute, we're fine. We showed that in the second half."

Maybe, or maybe the Spurs built their huge lead and coasted through the back half on account of having finished their series-clincher against the Suns just 40 hours earlier.

No matter.

Here's the truth, the exact notion a lot of people figured before Game 1: What the Jazz did in their first two playoff series, what they got away with and what they accomplished, won't be enough against San Antonio.

The sooner they learn that, the quicker they grow, the better chance they have of conjuring more magic in a matchup that will require a whole vat of it, not half of one.

gmonson@sltrib.com