When the San Antonio Spurs acquired Stephen Jackson at the trade deadline that sent Richard Jefferson to the Golden State Warriors, I felt that the Spurs are probably a player away from being a serious title contender.
It didn't take much time for the Spurs to make another move as they nabbed Boris Diaw at the waiver deadline to shore up their frontcourt.
On a night, when the Spurs needed some lift to help them get by a four-year drought in winning playoff openers, two of their late season acquisitions responded.
Diaw started alongside Tim Duncan and provided enough offense and hustle while Duncan struggled during the first half.
The Spurs' versatile forward finished with nine points, five rebounds, one block and one steal while shooting 4-of-5 from the field.
With every game, coach Gregg Popovich seems on point about Diaws effectiveness on both ends of the floor.
Jackson on the other hand, did his share in the second half.
Captain Jack scored seven points, grabbed two rebounds and had two assists in a 13 minute stretch that contributed heavily to a 106-91 Spurs victory in Game 1 of their first round playoff series against the Utah Jazz.
Jackson finished with 14 points, four rebounds and solid defensive work on Utah’s Paul Millsap.
Spurs captain Tim Duncan expected no less from a player who was a major contributor in the team’s run to the 2003 title.
"Same old Steve," Duncan said. "He was great. This is his time of year. He gets excited for it. He plays great. We saw today he brings that intensity. It’s something we really need from him."
Jackson’s intensity showed up most visibly in his defensive work and rebounding, but it was clear he enjoyed every moment of his first playoff game since April 26, 2010, when he was with a Charlotte Bobcats team that was swept in the first round by the Orlando Magic.
His road back to the playoffs included a stretch in Milwaukee earlier this season during which he was virtually banished from the team.
"Everybody has their own road," Jackson said. "Everything I've been through has definitely made me stronger, a smarter guy and a smarter player. I appreciate the good and the bad. But just being back here is sweet. And being here and hearing those fans is definitely special, too. It’s the best feeling in the world. Tha's what I live for.
"It's a blessing to be a part of the playoffs again. I mean it. If you don’t get up for this game, you can’t get up for any game. So I'm just happy to be back here and have a chance to be back in the playoffs. I'm excited."
The Spurs won just one game, and the road to championship is still far ahead, but if they are to win the title this season, they will definitely need Diaw and Jackson to deliver on a nightly basis.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)