The Utah Jazz (4-4) lost two nights ago to the Golden State Warriors (5-0) in Game 1 of the second round. Sure, the NBA Playoffs is where the best teams rise to the top, but even though one of these two teams has a ring with this core and the other does not, it was still only a 106-94 final margin. That’s 12 points over 48 minutes, and that’s a rate of losing by three points every quarter, or one point every four minutes of play. That’s pretty close when you think of it as a linear relationship. But that’s not how the game is actually played. It’s a game of runs. The Jazz went on seven runs, while the Warriors went on eight.
At home we expected the crowd to get behind their champions, and give them energy. That’s exactly what happened as the Golden State Warriors started off with their exciting brand of ‘home run’ basketball, and rushed out to a 9-0 lead. At the end of the game, to start the fourth quarter they went on a 10-0 run, with only two of their starters in (but with their 6th man and 7th man in their place).
The beginning blitz put the Jazz in a situation where they were fighting back all game long. The finishing push to make a manageable game (11 points after three) into an unmanagble one (21 points with 8:30 left in the game) was what proved to be the difference here. Utah had to go on two runs (6-0, 6-0) in the first quarter to get back into it after being down 0-9 to start. They would make it a 18-17 game with 2:55 left in the quarter. So that’s good! Similarly, Utah had to go on two small runs (5-0, 6-0) in the fourth to get the margin back down.
Golden State didn’t just have one more run than the Jazz, but their runs were longer and were for more time. That’s the difference between a great team and a good team. Utah’s good right now. And they can be very dangerous.
For example it was a 12 point game at halftime, mainly because Utah responded to a Golden State run by finishing the 2nd quarter 5-0. They would trade baskets in the third and then go on a 6-0 run to make it a 7 point game with 10:30 to play. That’s a close game. That’s a winnable game between teams that are evenly matched.
The Warriors’ talent (especially their star talent of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and others) makes it very hard to ANY team to be evenly matched. The Jazz have depth but the sum of their talents was lesser than the whole of the Dubs in Game 1.
While I do like to make fun of people and point to problems, the data makes it an easy job to look at Shelvin Mack.
- 1st Stint (Q1 3:00 to 0:00) -3 in plus/minus
- 2nd Stint (Q2 12:00 to 9:22) -8 in plus/minus
- 3rd Stint (Q2 6:04 to 3:00) +2 in plus/minus
His first half wasn’t that stellar in how the flow of the game went when he was in there. The final push of the Warriors to make an 11 point game a 21 point game happened when Dante Exum was out there (Q4 12:00 to 8:33), as he was -8 in plus/minus. But George Hill was in at that same time, and it was a really strange sequence of events.
That fourth quarter run is what ended this game, but I’d say that the Warriors going on 10-2, 9-0, 8-2, 7-2, 5-0, and 5-0 runs in the first half were also somewhat to blame, right? Steve Kerr’s team (while he’s not there) went on those six runs in the first half with five different units.
- Stephen Curry, Klay Thomspon, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia (9-0, 5-0)
- Stephen Curry, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, JaVale McGee (7-2)
- Ian Clark, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, David West (10-2)
- Shaun Livingston, Ian Clark, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, David West (5-0)
- Stephen Curry, Shaun Livingston/Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, David West/Andre Iguodala (8-2)
Utah’s gotta find out what the common thing here is, and find out how to defend it. My guess? These guys switch all the time, force turn overs, and get out and run.
The Warriors only had two runs in the second half, one with their normal starters (9-0), but that 10-0 run to finish the game early in the fourth quarter was Ian Clark, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and David West.
Quin Snyder is being forced into having two point guards out there on defense to run around screens. And I understand the decision on starting Joe Johnson, as I don’t know if there’s a guy on this Warriors team that Boris Diaw can defend. Diaw is an excellent, smart, veteran player who isn’t going to get scared. But he was out there in that 4th quarter run as well, that closed the game out early.
Three of the Jazz’ seven runs were started by the starters of George Hill, Joe Ingles, Gordon Hayward, Joe Johnson, and Rudy Gobert. And against most teams I bet that line-up hurts a lot of teams. In this case the Jazz starters were always playing from behind - and the Jazz were behind because these five guys got them behind.
It’s going to be interesting to see what Snyder does. The Portland Trail Blazers series showed us that playing fast and small and shooting thees isn’t going to work because you can’t beat the Dubs by trying to out-Dub them. But you can’t go too big because that means just getting mismatches out there all the time, against you.
Rudy Gobert shouldn’t have to guard Stephen Curry at the three point line. But then again, you have to play him because he’s the team’s best player. I am getting some deja vu from the first two UTA/GSW series right now. Mark Eaton was run off the court as well. It wasn’t a happy part of my childhood.
Game 2 is going to have a bunch of adjustments. Maybe that means more Trey Lyles and Joel Bolomboy? We’ll find out in the next 24 hours if it worked.