If the Warriors’ blowout over the Trail Blazers Saturday was a lightning-quick offensive showcase, Tuesday’s demolition of the Jazz was the complete opposite.
The win over the Blazers was like getting demolished by E. Honda’s hundred-hand slap in Street Fighter, whereas the 104-74 waxing of the Jazz was like being defeated by single jabs to the face. Methodical, deliberate and unforgiving.
Utah came into the game as a team that usually gives the Warriors (25-4) problems, as they have the defense to limit Golden State’s easy looks. The Jazz (18-11) came into the game allowing just 94.6 points per game, which is the best mark in the NBA.
Curry hasn’t shot the ball as spectacularly as he did last season, but Steve Kerr said he can tell he’s close:
“I always think he’s going to make every shot and I thought he was really close to having a huge night tonight. You can tell he had some bounce in his step and he had several shots that were right there and they just didn’t quite go.
Golden State didn’t look quite themselves early, as the game started out with just awful shooting displays both ways. Both teams went scoreless for the first four minutes of game action.
Draymond Green said that first part of the game was ugly and nasty:
“It says a lot about us to score 104 points and start the first six minutes of the game with two points? That says a lot. It was good to a win game like that where you have to make a couple adjustments. Shots weren’t falling early, no shots, whether it was a layup, three pointer, whatever it was it didn’t go in.”
The Jazz actually seemed to control the game early as they played their pace and had a strong defensive first half, holding the Warriors offense to mortal levels of just 55 points on 43.5 percent shooting and quieting the usually raucous Oracle crowd.
Their defense is really what spurred their win, especially since they started off so slow, Kerr said:
“We couldn’t buy a shot to start the game. The crowd gave us a sarcastic cheer for making a basket, never seen that. But I love that we stayed with it, defended and took care of the ball.”
And yet, the Warriors were up by 22 at the half.
How? The Warriors forced the Jazz into a gang of turnovers, 13 times on their first 49 possessions, which you simply cannot do against the Warriors. The Jazz came into the game averaging 13 turnovers per game.
When you are a slow-it-down team like Utah — they play the slowest pace in the NBA, averaging just 93.9 possessions per game — you can’t afford to waste any of them, let alone one in four of them.
It continued for the whole game, as the Warriors forced the usually sure-handed Jazz into 23 total turnovers.
Curry said the key was solid defense:
“[We were] just trying to defend without fouling and then use our hands for deflections when they got in the paint. We did a good job in the first half of drawing them into a crowd and making them make tough passes and just flying around everywhere. Everybody being on a string defensively, that was fun to play that kind of style.”
Green was a driving force, finishing with five steals to go along with his usual line of 15 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
The Jazz’s starting five were absolutely horrendous all game. They could do nothing right and were borderline useless, combining for 14 points in the first half, with 11 coming from their lone bright spot Rudy Gobert.
What’s worse? They were even colder in the second half, as they could score only eleven points after halftime. Thompson put the clamps on Hayward who came in averaging 22.4 points per game this season, and finished with six points on 2-for-10 shooting. And Hayward was probably the second best starter for the Jazz.
After the game, Gobert said that the Jazz played like they were scared of the Warriors, but Green thinks they just played a good game:
“I didn’t sense that, but that’s his team. I don’t know how they act on a daily basis … He’s with them everyday so if he says they were scared, I guess they were scared. It’s not really up to me to judge, I just thought they missed some shots, I think you got to give some credit to our defense, and we were able to get it going.”
Hood left the game at halftime because of gastric distress and did not return. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Jazz’s putrid play made the shooting guard physically ill. That’s the type of game it was for them.
Their starting five finished the game 10-for-28 for 25 points. Kevin Durant himself finished the game 8-for-14 for 22 points.
And you can’t expect to win any game if that happens, let alone against the best team in the NBA.
The Warriors won’t be home for the holidays as after their win tonight, they set course on a three-game Eastern Conference road trip culminating with a Finals rematch against the Cavs on Christmas Day. But up first, the Warriors will travel to New York to take on the Brooklyn Nets.
With the win the Warriors have now won seven straight games against the Utah Jazz and 13 of the last 14 meetings. The lone loss coming on January 30, 2015 when the Jazz won by just one point. … Derrick Favors sat out Tuesday night’s game against the Warriors. The bouncy big has missed 15 games this year and the Jazz are 8-7 without him in the lineup. … The Warriors held the Jazz to 33 points in the first half, which is the fewest points they have allowed this season.