Conley, Mitchell both out, which presents an opportunity as Warriors host Jazz
Golden State will gladly take the luck as they chase down a higher seeding
With the NBA’s play-in tournament this year, it complicates what could be a playoff preview tonight when the 8th seeded Golden State Warriors host the top seeded Utah Jazz.
Remember that the play-in tournament will take place May 18-21. As per the NBA, the seventh-place team will host the eighth-place team for a game, with the winner earning the 7 seed… Then the ninth-place team will host the 10th-place team, and the loser of the 7-8 matchup will host the winner of the 9-10 game to determine the 8 seed.
From friend of LGW, Ivan Bettger, here are the teams in question (note the information will be out of date by time of publication, but you get the idea):
So, it’s really in the the interest of the Warriors to at least hang on to that 8th seed. Falling to 9th or 10th builds a much harder path to the playoffs, and requires two straight wins. If the Warriors weren’t chasing wins earlier in the season, they are for sure doing so now.
Which is why the unfortunate injury news from the Jazz is welcome. For a team like the Warriors that are eagerly trying to build up some breathing room, having two of your opponents’ main scorers both out matter - especially with a brutal back-to-back to consider.
WHO: Golden State Warriors () vs. Utah Jazz ()
WHEN: Monday, May 10th, 2021 // 7:00 pm PST
Four games to go!
We are in the closing stanza now. After tonight’s game, the Warriors host the Phoenix Suns tomorrow in a very difficult back-to back. Then it’s the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, and the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. That Sunday, by the way, is going to be nuts.
And that’s it. One day off and then the play-in tournament.
While there have been reports of adding Jordan Bell, there don’t appear to be any imminent signs of it at this point. The bad news is that some frontcourt help would be welcome relief and allow Juan Toscano-Anderson to stop pretending like he’s a center. On the other hand, it is good news for a Warriors squad that seems to be in the zone right now, hitting their postseason stride at just the right time.
As Daniel Hardee wrote yesterday, the Warriors have found a groove right now, and the entire team is cooking off of Curry’s heat. Curry, who scored a massive 49 points in just 29 minutes, shows that veteran charge for the playoffs that has a number of franchises bemoaning the NBA’s new play-in tournament format.
Which is why the Jazz’s untimely bad luck will come in handy. This Jazz/Suns back-to-back was by far one of the toughest two game stretches of the season, so anything that softens up one of these games for a more likely victory is a good sign for Golden State.
Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert - two powerhouse defenses
Tonight’s game will pit the #3 and #5 defense against each other - led by two of the league’s most impactful, and unique defenders. Gobert has improved his perimeter defense to a respectable level, but still makes his primary difference around the rim. In the Jazz scheme, he plays like a free safety, roaming the paint and using his long frame to contest anything in his vicinity.
For a Warriors team that takes around 40% of their shots within 10 feet of the rim, the plan will be to work around the spaces that Gobert fills. With Curry already owning a fairly extensive highlight reel of making Gobert look silly in space, the Warriors may be fairly well positioned to work around the Jazz’s tough defense.
Another reason for optimism is the absence of Conley and Mitchell. Mitchell drives the offense as their leading scorer, and it’s not close: the next closest player to his 26.4 points per game is Jordan Clarkson who is all the way down at 17.7 per game (Conley is fourth, at 16.4). So the Jazz now, locked in their own battle for seeding against the shockingly good Phoenix Suns, will have to somehow face Stephen Curry without their entire starting backcourt.
Could the loss of scoring punch from the Jazz, combined with the nightmare matchup scenario of playing against a red hot Curry without your starting backcourt be enough to ensure a Golden State victory? Nothing is certain in this wacky season, but it sure can’t hurt.
For the Warriors, the staunch defense predicted by coach Steve Kerr so long ago has now settled in as standard practice for the Warriors. If the Jazz are without two of their key shot creators, they could be outside of their comfort zone. Especially knowing Gobert’s dearth of offensive moves, the Warriors defense could put the clamps on the Jazz offense.
Quietly, the Warriors defense is in elite territory, especially when it comes to half court defense. Overall Golden State is ranked fifth, allowing just 0.959 points per possession on those play types. Importantly for a game that may feature Gobert in the post heavily, it’s interesting to now that the Warriors are the best team in the league at defending post-up possessions in the half court set.
The Warriors probably saw this Jazz/Suns back-to-back on the calendar and were hoping for a split. One way or another, tonight’s game appears to be the window that is open the widest, so I’m thinking the Warriors get it done. 108-104.