The Golden State Warriors (5-0), as expected, defeated the Utah Jazz (4-4) in the first game of the second round in this 2017 NBA Playoffs. The Warriors, who are aiming for their third straight trip to the NBA Finals, were at home and took care of business in Game 1. All of this was expected. The Dubs won the first quarter by +6 points, and the second quarter by +6 points as well. Utah was turning the ball over like crazy, and Golden State was getting their quick shots in transition. And Utah was down at half by 12.
Utah actually would win the third quarter by +1 points, cutting that lead down. Normally if you have an 11 point deficit going into the fourth quarter you’re close. It’s not out of reach. And with the way Gordon Hayward shot, and all the turn overs, that’s not the worst possible situation to be in.
Huge props for Rodney Hood who came out in the third and carried the scoring load on his back, by the way. Also huge props to Mike Brown for “defending” his paint with JaVale McGee - I even scored on him in the third quarter.
But if we are looking at the difference between leading a game, being close in a game, being a little out of arms reach in a game, and being completely out of reach in this game you just need to look at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Both teams were using mixed line-ups (Ian Clark, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, David West vs. George Hill, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Boris Diaw, and Derrick Favors). But the Warriors - who had hours and hours of more experience together on the court this season - extended the 11 point lead to 21 over the course of 3:30 minutes.
And that was the game in terms of wins and losses. There was extended garbage time where the Jazz emptied the bench and closed the gap back to 12 points. That group was Shelvin Mack, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Trey Lyles, and Joel Bolomboy that went on a 5-0 run; and then Hood was replaced by Raul Neto and they went on a 6-0 run.
Some of our players played poorly. Some of them played okay. Some of them played well. I’m not upset. I’m really not mad at all. Losing big, and making it respectable in garbage time - in a playoff game - is something that I hate. You want to win. Always.
But the Jazz ARE winning. They aren’t even supposed to be in the second round according to the experts. But they are. They are supposed to be blown out of the water, but they fought back in the third, and again in garbage time. They aren’t giving up the ghost. This is a team that is getting a lot of experience the hard way. On the court. Against the best. And they aren’t giving up.
Utah held Golden State to .241 3PT%, held them to just 5 offensive rebounds, probed their defense all game long to get good looks - and despite all the turn overs and fast break points - kept the pace down to 91.7. Everyone says “teams can’t make Golden State play slow.” Well, Utah did. And did it in their worst game of the NBA Playoffs. A playoffs that they weren’t supposed to advance in.
Utah had more points in the paint, and didn’t crap the bed at the line (not that they are going to be shooting a lot from there this series).
Golden State wasn’t pressed to finish with their starters. But by what I’ve heard from their fans, they expected to have that blowout in the third quarter, not the fourth. And the Jazz weren’t supposed to lead in this game after starting the game off 0-9 on the score board. But they did cut it to 1, and under 10 a number of times against their best players.
First game jitters. Bad turn overs. Losing guys in transition. Missing open threes. And you lose by 12 points (could have been 10, but the Jazz guys decided to run out the clock instead of scoring with 13 seconds left).
Mark my words, at the end of this series our team is going to be better overall as a result of this. And the rest of the world is going to #TakeNote of what’s developing in Utah.