Tonight the Utah Jazz (5-7, 2-5 away) will play the Golden State Warriors (8-2, 4-1 home) in what looks like to be a fast paced game where both teams will look to the three early on in the shot clock. For the Dubs 31.7% of all their FGA are from downtown, and the Jazz aren't that far behind with 29.6% being hoisted from outside. (More on the Jazz three point shooting evolution here.) It will also be the first meeting of two rookie head coaches, Quin Snyder and Steve Kerr.
The Warriors are 1.0 games from leading the Western Conference, and they play an exciting brand of basketball. They lead the league in pace (99.8 possessions per game), score a lot (2nd best 108.6 ppg), and on their own merits are a Top 10 team for both offensive and defensive efficiency (#8 in Off RTG, and #3 in Def RTG). This season they've had big wins over most of their opponents, and have wins in their belt against their Western Conference foes: Trail Blazers, Clippers, and Rockets. Only two losses mar their record, a loss at home to the San Antonio Spurs, and a loss on the road to the Phoenix Suns. In their last game they obliterated the Lakers, in LA, 136-115. They haven't played since the 16th, and will be ready for the Jazz. Or at least, view the Jazz as a tune up for their five game road trip that starts a day after that will have them play @ Oklahoma City Thunder, @ Miami Heat, @ Orlando Magic, @ Charlotte Hornets, and finish up @ Detroit Pistons. That road trip isn't nearly as frightening as it should be -- so I don't expect the Dubs to overlook the Jazz in favor of worrying about the Magic or some other silly team.
Utah, on the other hand, are in the middle on nowhere -- being the 11th seed in the Western Conference. I will freely gloat about it, though; as many preseason prognostications had the Jazz as being 14th or worse. The Jazz are 5-5 in their last 10, and many fans would argue that the team should be 6-6 or 7-5 right now if not for some ludicrous play in the 4th quarter of a few close games. By the same token, the team has won two games on buzzer beaters . . . so the team could be worse. Quin Snyder wants to play with pace, but so far the team has let the other squad determine how fast the game goes. Tonight we could see some of what the team did in preseason -- which is closer to the GSW plan than anything Dick Motta ever envisioned. (Why bring up Dick Motta? Because he was the brain behind the Flex offense that the last three former Utah Jazz head coaches ran) The Jazz are a Top 10 offense (being 10th), but everything else looks shaky. Utah has worked on defense quite a bit this season, but it does not appear to be any better than last year. If we are going to evaluate this team on defense then so far the results leave us wanting.
Tonight's game will prove to be a significant challenge -- a team that plays (and is comfortable) playing much faster than the Jazz, that is also a much better offensive team, that has a number of stars, on their home court . . . while also having a stronger bench, and a team defense that is superior.
Golden State Warriors:
Yes, the "Splash Brothers" are going to be a problem. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson would have also given Deron Williams and Ronnie Brewer fits. They would have also given John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek trouble too. They are both just astoundingly good at shooting. They bring more to the table than just shooting and scoring, but it would be silly to start with anything else. I'm not a huge fan of their defense, but against a slumping Trey Burke and somewhat muted Alec Burks it may look quite bad for our side.
The Harrison Barnes / Draymond Green mix is interesting at the forward spots because they both do a little work on the glass, and both shoot really well from outside. Effectively it's hard not to see WHY the Dubs shoot over 30% of all their shots from outside -- they have the necessary dribble penetration to create outside shots, and their open shooters are making them. Rounding out the starting lineup is Andrew Bogut, whom we are all familiar with. He's a double double guy, well, he would be if he took more than 6.4 shots a game. He is the defensive anchor on a team that would be so much easier to deal with if he wasn't there.
The bench is led by Andre Iguodala who can do so many things out there on the court, even if his shots aren't falling this year. I am ready to discount their inside game, particularly their bench bigs, but I am sure doing so will mean one of them (maybe Marreese Speights) goes off on us tonight.
Regardless, this team is clicking on almost all cylinders right now, and don't even miss David Lee.
I think we are getting a pretty good indication of our guys. Gordon Hayward is going to be all over the court. Derrick Favors is going to be a big deal in the paint. Enes Kanter is going to never miss spot up jumpers from midrange. And so forth. I guess we can add to the list: our guards will have trouble on defense. Tonight will be a highlight reel of that if the coach doesn't have some good strategies on how to deal with the Golden Gate Menace at our door.
One thing that I may see happening is that Dante Exum may get some more time on Curry if Trey Burke is incapable of making life hard for him. Exum has the length and quickness to mostly stay with him -- I just hope he knows to never, ever go under the screen though.
Trevor Booker vs. Marreese Speights . . . . okay, maybe not. I'm going to go with Alec Burks and Klay Thompson. Klay was picked one spot above Alec, and since that time they've never been as close. Thompson sky rocketed to big early career minutes, and had a coach that wanted him to shoot more and more. And he did, and he went as far as being a member of the USA Basketball team that won the FIBA 2014 World Cup. He's a big scorer who gets it done.
Alec Burks is finally a starter after three years on the bench behind guys who aren't on the team anymore (Raja Bell, Randy Foye, Richard Jefferson -- or even lasted more than one season). Alec is a competent outside shooter, but he doesn't give himself the green light from outside. His best skill is getting to the basket and finishing acrobatic layups. It's possible that he could take Klay out of the game by making him play defense and saddling him with a few fouls early.
I would be so happy if that happened.
We're more likely going to see Alec play a passive game while Thompson gets 18 shots tonight, many of them open.
- David Lee (GSW) -- OUT -- Lee has played only one game this season due to a hamstring injury. He is doubtful tonight according to some sites, but according to the Warriors he is listed as out
- Rodney Hood (UTA) -- OUT -- Hood has been moved from "wait to hear that he is out" to "until you hear otherwise, he is out" status. No need to rush back, but we'll need you for our playoff push . . . next year. Get fully well, not get well soon.
This is a road game, which the Jazz do not historically do well in. Golden State is rested and ready, and the Jazz start off a back to back set with this game (then fly back to Utah to host the New Orleans Pelicans). They have the star players and are at home, and play very, very well. Both teams have one guy out, but they are more able to deal with Lee's absence. I give the edge here to GSW all around.
Piece of History:
Remember back to Game 1 of the 2nd round where the Jazz won 116-112 against the "We believe" dubs? Deron Williams had 31 and 8 in that game, Mehmet Okur had 21 and 11 (with 3 threes), and Carlos Boozer finished with 17 and 20. One thing we often forget about that game is that Andrei had 13 points, 7 rebounds, 7 blocks, 4 assists, and 1 steal too.