So I don’t even have to ask “What time is it?” because you all know that it’s time to watch the Utah Jazz in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Their opponent? The Championship DNA dripping team of unbridled success and offensive firepower known as the Golden State Warriors. We’re doing a Jazz Jam sessions with them, and probably will circle back after a few games. Nate P. asked me some questions and you can read my answers to them here:
Our bros over at Golden State of Mind are great fans, sometimes. Don’t make prolonged eye-contact. Anyway, to see my questions and read Nate P’s answers keep scrolling!
Let’s start Jammin’!
1. Pretty much fans of 29 teams felt like their dog died when Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors. What did you learn about him this season as he was on your team? What does he give the team that they didn't have in the previous epic seasons?
I think it was pretty clear what KD offered almost immediately: he's one of the most efficient one-on-one threats in the league. For a team that occasionally got bogged down by its own interest in ball movement, having someone who could create shots on his own efficiently was huge.
However, the reason some people/haters have speculated about whether the the team is better without KD is because he can also play the role of ball stopper -- he's just a very efficient ball stopper who you don't really mind stopping the ball.
That, to me, was the big learning process for KD and his teammates this year: how to integrate an elite isolation player with a team predicated on elite ball movement. If you're looking for evidence of that, look no further than that one time when Draymond Green was yelling at KD on the court when he went full hero ball instead of running a set.
2. Which Jazz player is Draymond Green going to cover in crunch time? How do you see that battle going with respect to strengths / weaknesses of Dray as a defender?
You have to figure it will be [Rudy Gobert], right? But I think this question is especially hard to answer because we really don't know what Mike Brown’s coaching tendencies will look like in crunch time. In fact, I'm as curious to know how he'll play that as you are.
3. The Portland Trail Blazers tried to play against the Warriors' strengths. They made it close in one game. Is this how to beat the Dubs? Or should the Jazz focus on playing the inelegant game of throwback basketball?
From everything we've seen, opponents really gotta hope the Warriors make excessive turnovers or simply outwork the Warriors on the offensive boards to get second chances against their defense. The turnover bug seems to strike randomly when they're just not dialed in. So that means the one weakness you really can exploit is that the Warriors again ranked near the bottom of the league in defensive rebounding percentage - that's something that the opponent can actually control if they have the talent to do so (think Memphis over the years, OKC last year, and Cleveland/Tristan Thompson in a few of their Finals wins IIRC). You're not gonna beat the Warriors at their game in a seven game series. Imposing your will on the boards is the key.
4. What are your thoughts on Mark Jackson? Jazz fans hate him, by the way.
You can't really bring up Mark Jackson at GSOM or around Warriors fans anywhere without some disagreement arising. Just last week someone told me, “What people don't realize is that Mark Jackson was the one responsible for this team’s success.”
And...yeah...that's like saying people don't realize Lincoln was a republican.
So...just know that I in no way speak for all Warriors fans about him because I don't think there is a unified opinion.
I give Jackson credit for being a strong motivator who a number of players really did like -- he took a team that hasn't experienced consistent success in decades to two straight playoff berths. But he was not much of a tactician and that iso ball he wanted to rely on was just excruciating to watch. And I do think some of the goodwill he earned among Warriors fans has been exhausted by his commentary on Warriors games on ESPN/ABC -- his observations of the Warriors drip with salt all these years later and it's hard to watch.
5. Where, on the court, should Jazz fans be happy about Zaza Pachulia taking jumpers? They can't give him the baseline 2 pointer anymore. (This is with the best case scenario where somehow the defense has put the ball in Zaza's hands and he has decided to shoot jumpers, instead of setting screens.)
I'm a little unclear about how to answer this question because if the defense has forced Zaza Pachulia into jumpers from where he normally gets the ball within the offense (high post) with any kind of consistency that's a victory for the defense -- better him shooting that than, well, almost anyone else short of JaVale McGee. Even if you were to say his sample size outside of 3 feet is too small to say anything, he's inefficient with the shots he does take.
So yeah… “force Zaza to shoot” is certainly a way to beat the Warriors, but there's a reason that has never happened.
6. From the lottery to the champs - what were the most important steps along the way?
There's no question to me that the key step was choosing to build around Steph Curry instead of Monta Ellis. It's not hard to find fans who will say they wanted to keep Ellis without remorse or find fans at Oracle rocking Ellis jerseys, but I think the results speak for themselves. Aside from that, it was just a string of brilliant personnel moves: getting Klay Thompson in the late lottery, Draymond Green in the second round, and somehow landing Andre Iguodala (shout out to Utah for the help in making that happen).
7. Can the Jazz win one game in this series?
I think they can, but to me it really comes back down to rebounding. And I think the Jazz probably do have the defensive ability to frustrate the Warriors into a high turnover game.
I suppose my prediction is that it won't go longer than 5 games, but it's hard to know when or whether the Jazz will win one because part of that will require a bad night for the Warriors and a good one for the Jazz.
Thanks a lot Nate! And Jazz fans, visit and be respectful of the championship fans over at Golden State of Mind! It’s going to be a fun series!