The San Antonio Spurs have struggled winning their series opener in the past four years. This time, they made sure they wouldn't put themselves in 0-1 hole to start the playoffs, and Tony Parker was a big part of it.
Parker finished with a game-high 28 points and eight assists as the top-seeded Spurs beat the Utah Jazz, 106-91 in Game 1 of their first-round series Sunday.
It marked the 11th straight win for the Spurs dating to the regular season, and the looked more focused and determined this time around.
"I think everybody knows what happened last year," Parker said. "Everybody's motivated this year, but we don't even talk about it."
The Jazz, hang tough for three quarters in the franchise's first playoff game without Jerry Sloan since 1988, but couldn't keep up when San Antonio began burying them with three-pointers in a two-minute burst to finish the third period.
"The biggest thing we're going to learn is the different ways to guard the pick and roll, and what worked and what didn't," Jazz guard Gordon Hayward said. "We can't let them get to the paint as easily, because it's kick out 3's and dump down's and whatever. So we have to do better at that."
Paul Millsap led Utah with 20 points, Hayward scored 17 points and Al Jefferson had 16 for the Jazz, who present the Spurs problems with a bigger frontcourt but showed inexperience as they committed 16 turnovers.
Tim Duncan scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who despite boasting the No. 1 seed for a second straight year hadn't won a Game 1 in its last six postseason series.
Manu Ginobili scored just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field, but added four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Also, San Antonio's late season acquisitions contributed in this victory.
Boris Diaw started alongside Duncan in the frontcourt and had nine points and five rebounds, while Stephen Jackson added 14 points and four rebounds off the bench.
"We needed this one. We played a pretty good game. It wasn't brilliant, but it was steady and we kept fighting. It took us awhile, but we broke it in the fourth quarter." Ginobili said.
However, it's not all good news for the Spurs.
Tiago Splitter sprained his left wrist and didn't return after scoring four points in eight minutes in the first half. The severity of the injury wasn't immediately known.
Nonetheless, Splitter might have enough time to heal as the series progresses. Game 2 is Wednesday in San Antonio.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)