- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

SAN ANTONIO — Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are making the Western Conference finals look way too easy.

Duncan had 26 points and 14 rebounds, and Parker lived up to his pledge of giving the Utah Jazz “no hope” by sinking all six of his first-half shots, helping the San Antonio Spurs build a big halftime lead that turned into a 105-96 victory in Game 2 of the series last night.

Parker finished with 17 points and 14 assists, his most in a playoff game. Manu Ginobili added 17 points as the Spurs took a 2-0 lead, moving halfway to reaching the NBA Finals for the third time in five years.

They got this close by outlasting the Phoenix Suns in a tense second-round series many considered the de facto conference finals, if not the NBA Finals — and, so far, Utah has done little to dismiss that theory.

“We have to stay humble because we just got what’s ours,” Ginobili said. “We’ve got to do even better now to get one in Utah. Hopefully we’ll show the same approach and concentration.”

The Jazz never led in this game and haven’t led since the seventh minute of the opener. While Carlos Boozer bounced back from a poor game and the team started strong, a second straight second-quarter meltdown left Utah trailing by 17 at halftime and 22 a few minutes into the third quarter. They got within seven in the final period but were always turned away by big baskets from San Antonio’s playoff-tested veterans.

“It seemed like every time we got back into the game, we’d shoot ourselves in the foot, kind of self-destruct,” coach Jerry Sloan said. “They just took advantage of our inability to see what’s going on.”

Now the Jazz are headed home trailing 0-2 for the second time this postseason.

They fought back in the first round against Houston, but Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and the Rockets are no comparison to Duncan, Parker and the Spurs, champions in 2005 and 2003. Plus, there’s this bit of history to overcome: Only two of the previous 57 teams to lose the first two games of a conference finals have advanced.

Sloan has several days to come up with some way to do it. Game 3 isn’t until Saturday night, and the next two games will be in Salt Lake City, where the Jazz are 6-0 this postseason.

“They’re a much better home team,” Duncan said. “We’re looking for a dogfight.”

Boozer led Utah with 33 points and 15 rebounds, and Deron Williams had another strong game with 26 points and 10 assists. Andrei Kirilenko had 15 points, and Mehmet Okur scored 11, but the Jazz rarely had two players clicking at the same time. For instance, Derek Fisher was 1-for-9, and the bench produced a total of eight points.

San Antonio shot 55.4 percent for the game and was 13-for-26 on 3-pointers, setting a franchise playoff record for makes. Brent Barry and Bruce Bowen both were 3-for-3 behind the arc for all nine of their points. Finley scored 11. Starting center Fabricio Oberto was 6-for-7 for 14 points.

The stat that will please Spurs coach Gregg Popovich the most: San Antonio outrebounded Utah 44-35.

“I think I said, ‘Rebound more,’ something really magical like that probably,” Popovich said.

The Spurs controlled this game almost as easily as the opener, which ended with a deceivingly close 108-100 score. The Jazz had a big finish against a tired, disinterested team, which is why Parker said Monday that San Antonio needed to keep Utah from picking up where it left off.

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