On Monday night the Utah Jazz laced them up for a “do or die” game against the Golden State Warriors. The Dubs had rolled to the second round by sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers 4-0, and had their eyes set on doing the same to our guys. Up 3-0 they knew what they had to do in order to close out a desperate team on their own home court. After all, they just did that four games ago. Utah hadn’t faced a close out game before until Game 7 - on the road. And frankly? This Jazz team seems to play better on the road. I don’t know what that says about their own beds, or the lack of home cooking at the Aunt Viv from the refs, but all the Jazz needed to do was focus on this single game.
Win Game 4, at home, and extend the season.
That didn’t happen as the Warriors put their foot on the Jazz’ collected throats with a 20-4 run to start the game and a 11-2 run to finish the first quarter. The Warriors are like what Megatron would be if Starscream wasn’t always getting in the way. After one quarter the Jazz were down 39-17.
Nearly 40 points, in a quarter, on our home court! This is like the school bully coming over to your house and slapping your mom. I don’t think a healthy George Hill (+/- Alec Burks) solves this problem.
Utah showed heart (we see you Frank Layden) by fighting back in the second quarter. The “inconceivable” line-up of Raul Neto, Dante Exum, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson, and Derrick Favors responded with an 14-0 run, making this a game again. In particular, Dante was the #5 pick we drafted. One only knows how good he would be if he didn’t miss all of the 2015-2016 season, and way too much of the 2016-2017 season.
Furthermore, Gordon Hayward isn’t a punk, and he wasn’t going to go down as one. Not when he was finally getting some help. He led the charge over the final 3 minutes of the half which resulted in another 12-2 run. And at the half the Jazz were down by eight. This was a game, after all.
But it was a game the Warriors were determined to win. And they did that. Even with the foul trouble for Draymond Green he would still manage a triple double. Stephen Curry would drop 30. And Kevin Durant, the main villain of Game 3, would only need to score 18 points to sow up this W.
Golden State won the third quarter by 6, and the fourth by 12. And Utah gave up 121 points at home. In a game where you expect they would have fought harder. (Or maybe, GSW is just that good that even at their best, their best isn’t good enough?) The 121 points put up by the visitors was the most the team gave up all season long - at home or on the road. (Their previous high at home was the 113 to the Timberwolves, but it was a 120 - 113 Jazz win.)
Why did the Jazz get blasted? There’s no one really good answer aside from intensity. The Warriors shot better (.512 / .423 / .889 vs. .371 / .296 / .750). They rotated better. They really made it hard on the Jazz to get good shots. More than that was that they forced the Jazz into having guys take the shots that THEY wanted to take. Dante Exum and Shelvin Mack shot the ball 25 times in this game. Part of that was due to garbage time. But most of that was by design. Contrasting that, Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood took only 13 total shots.
They dared Utah’s deep rotation guys, non-traditional scoring options to beat Golden State. And they couldn’t. Gordon Hayward tried to do put the team on his back, but the long arms of the Warriors made shots that went in against the Clippers miss this time around. He shot only 8/21 from the field but had an inspiring 4/7 performance from downtown. If this was his last game in a Jazz uniform it was a game where he finished with 25 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and somehow, a -32 in plus/minus.
Rudy Gobert had a double double with 12 points and 13 rebounds but was incapable of making the Warriors hurt from the line. Even after earning two free shots because of a Kevin Durant flagrant foul he went 0-2. And for the game only 2-6. There are a lot of parts to his game that need improvement. But I am very confident that his confidence at the line is only going to soar after having this “waste of #&$*# time” moment of his life burned into his memory to replay over and over and over and over and over again in the off-season. It’s not like Rudy is someone who dwells on things or anything . . .
Utah didn’t turn the ball over much, they protected their glass, they passed the ball and worked it for open shots when they could. They just didn’t have the intensity that the Warriors had. And that’s the difference between a team in their first playoff trip against a team trying to get to the NBA Finals for the third straight time in a row.
And that’s why the Warriors are moving on, with their second straight sweep. And why the Jazz have to figure some things out in the off-season.
Seeing Utah not punch them in the mouth to start the game, seeing the Jazz not match the physicality, seeing this team not fight for their lives . . . it wasn’t fun for me. Utah had been bounced by Golden State twice before at the beginning of Stockton to Malone. In ‘87 it went the distance but Utah lost. In ‘88 the Jazz took the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the second round. And in ‘89 the Jazz got swept by the Warriors in the first. Their second first round exit and a distinct lack of momentum built from their excellent ‘88 year.
It’s hard to match-up against a team that’s as talented as this Warriors squad. But the end result, another playoff sweep, really hit me hard. I’ve been a Jazz fan for longer than a lot of Dubs fans have been alive. One single win would have satiated me. And we didn’t get that. Instead, an off-season of ‘what ifs’ as three of the team’s starters could be gone.
This was the last game of the 2016-2017 Utah Jazz season. A 55 win season if we include the playoff wins. And this season was a success, a huge step up from where the team was years ago. It just isn’t great that now it is over.
Thank you Jazz. Thank you SLC Dunk readers.