Sharp Warriors march past Jazz in Game 1

Though Steve Kerr was not in attendance for Game 1 — he actually kind of was.

Kerr wasn’t on the bench, or even in the arena, so how appropriate was it that his favorite lineup won this game for the Warriors.

The Ian ClarkKlay ThompsonAndre IguodalaDraymond GreenDavid West all-defense lineup gave the Warriors everything they needed in their 106-94 Game 1 victory.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

That lineup is the Warriors go-to at the start of the second quarter. It’s one of the certainties of any Warriors game: Stephen Curry will hit a 3-pointer, Green will verbally attack your whole team, and that unit will start the second quarter.

Green said what made the unit so dangerous was their ability to turn defense into offense:

“That’s what we’ve been talking about leading up to this series. Trying to push the pace and really using our defense to do that. And that second unit did a great job of that, guys came off the bench ready to go and helped turn the game for us.”

But it wasn’t limited to their second quarter stint Tuesday. That unit blew open the game in the fourth, pushing the lead past 20 points.

It’s not hard to see why Kerr loves throwing out that combination. It’s an almost unstoppable defensive force, but their obvious weakness is an inability to score. It’s like if you just spent all your skill points in NBA2K on defense only. But on Tuesday, not only did they stifle literally any looks the Jazz had, but the spacing of West rendered Rudy Gobert almost useless on defense.

Gobert refused to step outside the key, which gave the pick-and-roll all the space it needed, and gave West any midrange shot or drive he could want. You can’t really blame Gobert because, when he did venture outside the key, things like this happened.

Acting head coach Mike Brown said he’s still shocked at some of the things Curry can do:

“I still enjoy it and I’ll keep enjoying it. I feel like I have one of the better seats in the house and I’m not even paying for it… If their game plan is to switch Rudy out on Steph from time-to-time, then I don’t know, we may see that again.”

It was a balanced scoring night as Curry led the team with 22 points despite sitting out much of the fourth quarter. He was joined in double-figures by his whole starting lineup, as Green continued on his playoff warpath scoring 17 with eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.

The Warriors offense had its moments, but the defense was flat-out dominant. Brown said that the focus of the team is to just lock in defensively:

“If we’re missing shots and we’re locked in defensively, we feel like we’re going to come out of it a lot of times sooner than the other team, and go on a big run to create separation.”

Golden State showed zero respect for any Jazz shooter and played a modified zone on the strong side of the court almost every possession. Not only was Draymond or Iguodala waiting in the key for penetration, they actually left the weak side altogether.

So at any given time, the Warriors would have four players on the ball side of the court and one guy roaming the middle to keep an eye on Gobert.

The Warriors used their full week off to finally get healthy with Kevin DurantShaun Livingston and Matt Barnes all good to go. But the negative side of that time off showed too, as the rust was very apparent to start the game.

Iguodala — who had been striping the ball and shooting over 60 percent from the field since March — went just 2-of-8 and 0-of-6 from deep, on almost all wide open shots. It continued what has been a brick-filled playoffs for Iguodala, who hasn’t made a 3-pointer yet. He’s gone 0-of-15 so far after missing all nine of his attempts against Portland.

But he wasn’t the only one to struggle, as Durant missed four shots inside the key in the first half that would normally be smooth finishes. Durant still finished with 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting, so obviously he found his groove as the game wore on.

The Warriors could have been just too hyped up to start the game. With most of the ‘We Believe’ team in the building, there was an energy around the Oracle that had been lacking for a while. That, combined with the anxiousness to start the second round after a long layoff, turned into a rough beginning.

And yet the Warriors still won this game handily.

Curry said it was a credit to their defense that they were in control early:

“I think our defense to start the first quarter gave us a chance to settle in offensively. We weren’t clicking and making shots early on, but our defense gave us an opportunity to find that flow. And that’s what you need in the playoffs, to really assert yourself.”

That’s what defense will do for you, and the Warriors have shown they have the best defensive lineup going.

Just ask Steve Kerr.

Up next

Unlike the previous series, the Warriors will have a more normal one-day break between games and take the court again Thursday.

Notes

This is the first time the Warriors and Jazz will meet in the second round of the NBA Playoffs since the ‘We Believe’ Warriors of 2007 lost 4-1 to the Jazz. That was also the last time Matt Barnes played a playoff game as a member of the Warriors before he checked in tonight with four minutes to go in the fourth… Zaza Pachulia has now scored the opening basket of each of the three home playoff games for the Warriors. Pachulia is actually averaging 6.3 points per game during the postseason and twice was in double-figures. … The Warriors tied their franchise record for fewest turnovers in a playoff game with just seven total. It’s the second time they’ve tied the record this postseason, as they also committed just seven turnovers in Game 3 against Portland.


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.