Rested Warriors target Jazz as next playoff victim

Golden State now knows they will get the Utah Jazz in the second round after their victory over the Clippers. After almost a full week off from their dominant first-round, the hopefully healthy Warriors will continue their Championship quest Tuesday. So how do the two teams match up?

The Warriors won the regular season series 2-1 against the Jazz, but that hardly offers an accurate summary of this matchup.

Starting point guard George Hill missed both Jazz loses, as did big man Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward missed one game and Rodney Hood sat out the first game then left the second one after just 11 minutes. And in the one Warriors loss, Klay Thompson was resting and the game meant nothing to either team.

So, just looking at the win-loss season series record tells us absolutely nothing.

Where’s Rudy?

Jazz big man Rudy Gobert has gone through his share of injury trouble already just in his first seven games.

First he went down in the very first game of the Clippers series after just 11 seconds with a hyperextended knee. Then in Game 6 Gobert rolled his ankle late in the game and was noticeably bothered by it. He fouled out in 13 minutes in Game 7, scoring just one point while missing his only attempt from the field.

Gobert gets just two days to rest before he has to take the court again and chase around this active Warriors team. He definitely won’t be 100 percent recovered from either injury and you can be sure the Warriors will put him in every pick-and-roll possible.

He’s the Jazz’s best defender and really their only hope of denying inside baskets so if he’s limited at all there could be a lot of JaVale McGee lobs in the Warriors’ future.

Styles clash

The old saying is that styles make fights, and if that’s true, then this would be a super weird fight. It’d be one guy throwing haymakers while the other guy throws jabs to the body.

The Jazz love to slow it down, and play at the slowest pace in the NBA this season, whereas the Warriors are the poster child for pace, fast breaking whenever possible.

It won’t just be important for the Warriors to push the ball, but defensive rebounding may be the most important stat for them. In order for them to run, they need to get stops and clear the boards.

They outrebounded the Blazers in three of the four games and will need to continue to assert their dominance on the boards or it could be a long series.

More ‘Iso Joe’

Joe Johnson had a basketball renaissance last series against the Clippers, relying almost exclusively on isolation baskets.

Don’t expect that to change against the Warriors, since the teams that play them close tend to be teams that play some form of hero ball. It takes away the Warriors best defensive attributes: their help defense and their switching abilities.

But the one difference from last series is that the guys Johnson will be isolating against: probable Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant. Exactly the type of opponent Johnson has trouble scoring over, taller, stronger, lanky defenders.

His speed is gone and his scoring arsenal is mostly fadeaways and stepbacks at this point in his career. And if he wants to put those up over the outstretched arms of Green or Durant, good luck with that.

Matchup to watch

George Hill vs Stephen Curry. While Hayward and Gobert get the majority of the outside attention, Hill is the engine that drives the car. Hill missed a good chunk of games to injury this year, but still finished with a career high in points per game at 16.9 and shot over 40 percent from deep.

He kept it up during the first-round series against the Clips, shooting a deadly 46.2 percent from behind the arc on catch-and-shoot situations. Curry has made strides as an on-ball defender in recent years and is a terror in the passing lanes, but Hill is going to push him to remain attached defensively.

Curry may switch onto Hood with Thompson guarding Hill, but regardless Hill can take over games. Just look at the last regular season matchup when he went for 20 points on 5-of-7 from deep, mostly on catch-and-shoot opportunities in the first half alone, before sitting out the rest of the game.

Curry is going to have to continue this run he’s been on to counter his matchup and averaging a shade under 30 points per game like he did last series would be a good place to start.

Most important role player

Matt Barnes. Patrick McCaw made a huge jump in play during the first-round against the Blazers in part because Barnes was also out with Durant. But also because that matchup was perfect for him. He could switch onto smaller guards like Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and didn’t have to worry about his lack of strength.

But the Jazz are a different animal. They have basically abandoned all two point guard lineups, with former starter Dante Exum riding the bench.

Their second shortest starter is Hayward or Joe Ingles, both 6-foot-8.

So in steps Barnes, who will most likely be counted to fill in those 15 or so minutes off the bench. This is barring health of course. If he’s still a no-go by Game 1 McCaw will once again be forced into action.

Prediction

It’s easy to think the Jazz can make this a series, but Arrogant SZN says Warriors in 4.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.