SALT LAKE CITY &
Facing a tight fourth quarter for the first time in the Western Conference finals, the San Antonio Spurs were hardly bothered.
They sat in a huddle and talked about changing up their defense and making more passes to get better shots. There was no fretting about the loud crowd, questionable officiating or the measly 13 points they scored in the third quarter.
"We just needed to keep our heads," said Robert Horry, among the most-experienced playoff performers on a San Antonio roster full of them.
Keeping their poise, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan were able to take advantage of the Utah Jazz losing their cool, hitting free throw after free throw to give the Spurs a 91-79 victory Monday night and a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The remarkable part about the Jazz letting a one-point game dissolve into another lopsided finish was the two guys who got tossed in the process: Jerry Sloan, who was coaching his 174th playoff game, and Derek Fisher, who is mild-mannered and has three championship rings.
Sloan and Fisher each picked up two technical fouls and wound up in the locker room before the game was over. Their departures a few minutes apart gave fans even more reasons to boo and throw things, an ugly way for Jazz fans to handle their team's first home loss of the playoffs after a 7-0 start.
"They threw Carmex at me," Spurs forward Bruce Bowen said. "I like Carmex, but not getting it thrown at me."
Ginobili led San Antonio with 22 points, 15 coming in the fourth quarter and 11 of those from the foul line. San Antonio was 19-of-25 on free throws in the final period, with four of the attempts courtesy of the technicals.
"I'm very proud of what we did in the fourth quarter because it was looking ugly for us," Ginobili said. "We stepped up and did a really good job."
This ugly-but-effective performance &
more free throws (30) than field goals (28) &
puts the Spurs within a victory of reaching the NBA finals for the third time in five years, and the fourth time since 1999. San Antonio has won the title each time.
"It could've been a tied series and a whole new ballgame," said Spurs star Tim Duncan, who had 19 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and five turnovers. "It's a great position to be in."
The Jazz won Game — by 26 points, leaving them feeling good about their chances of pulling off a historic comeback. Now, Utah must win Game 5 in San Antonio on Wednesday night just to bring the series back to Salt Lake City, and the Jazz have lost 18 straight games in San Antonio dating to 1999.
"I'm sure a lot of people are counting us out in the series," said Utah forward Carlos Boozer, who had 18 points and nine rebounds. "We have a much better feel for this team after playing them four times. All we can do is toughen up ... see if we can get one in San Antonio."
Jazz point guard Deron Williams had 27 points and 10 assists in 38 minutes despite having lost eight pounds the last two days while fighting a stomach ailment. He had two IVs in the morning, then was so good through three quarters that pregame memories of Michael Jordan overcoming illness to have a huge game against the Jazz in the 1997 NBA finals &
made even by Sloan &
no longer seemed silly.
But Williams didn't get enough help. Boozer was the only player to score more than nine points, and he didn't even make it to the foul line. Neither did center Mehmet Okur.
"We felt there were a couple of things that were questionable ... but they won the game," Williams said. "They made plays. They kept their heads. We were the ones getting the techs, not them. And that's why they prevailed."
The tone for the finish to this game was set midway through the third quarter when Boozer stuffed Duncan on a drive to the rim.
Duncan went down and lingered on the court while Boozer made a jumper on the other end, this time leaving Ginobili on the ground. Parker missed a layup, then Williams dribbled up the court and nailed a jumper at the foul line with Duncan backing up, daring him to shoot.
San Antonio led only 63-62 after three quarters. Utah was within 67-66 a few minutes later.
Then Ginobili hit a 3-pointer, Williams went miss-turnover-miss on the Jazz's next three possessions and the Spurs soon were up by six points. The Jazz never got closer than four.
"We just couldn't keep them off the free-throw line," Sloan said. Asked about all the technicals, he said: "I don't want to talk about those because all that does is give me more trouble."
Notes: This was San Antonio's first playoff win in Salt Lake City. The Spurs had been 0-9 counting losses in 1994, '96, '98 and Saturday night. ... San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich moved back into a tie with Sloan for fifth on the career playoff wins list with No. 87. ... Tuesday is the 10-year anniversary of John Stockton hitting "The Shot," a 3-pointer that sent the Jazz to the NBA finals for the first time. While Monday was Memorial Day, the Spurs must wait until Thursday for the eight-year anniversary of Sean Elliott's "Memorial Day Miracle," a 3-pointer with his feet barely inbounds for a victory over Portland in Game 2 of the conference finals en route to the franchise's first title.
Spurs outlast Jazz to take 3-1 series lead; Sloan, Fisher ejected
SALT LAKE CITY &