There’s a lot on my mind after watching the Golden State Warriors come back from a double-digit 4th quarter deficit to knock off the formidable but flawed Utah Jazz, 111-107.
For one, it reminded me of why I have consistently been highly skeptical of this Jazz team as a contender. As recently as winter time folks were breathlessly spouting Utah as “NBA Title contender no one wants to talk about”.
Well damn, if the Jazz are that good how come the Warriors keep beating them? Golden State won the season series 3-1 over Utah, which is interesting considering the Dubs also won the season series last year when Utah was the #1 seeded team in the conference. In January there was a message that was sent out that explained why the Jazz were a tasty matchup for the Dubs:
Utah’s led by short guards…they can be flummoxed and stymied on the way to the rim by bigger, athletic defenders. Utah’s wings are primarily 3-and-D guys whose athleticism doesn’t jump off the page. They stand in the corners and wait for one of the guards to find them for either a three-pointer or a straight line drive to the basket.
That action that fuels Utah’s strong drive-and-kick game…but if the penetration is being rebuffed, they’re not going to kill you with midrange creativity or brilliant post play. And if you’re shocked they don’t have elite post play despite employing the giant Gobert, it’s because Gobert is primarily looking to get spoonfed with passes around the rim or putbacks off offensive rebounds.
The Warriors won’t be vanquished by a guy who Patrick Murray referred to last night as a worse, less physical version of Tyson Chandler. Now THAT was gold-blooded!
As long as the Warriors contain the small guards, Utah’s in trouble. And on the other end, Gobert’s penchant for standing in the paint like a statue gives the Dubs enough space to work their shotmaking magic.
That message came from me. Would you believe that we’re now in April, on the cusp of the playoffs, and the Warriors beat them the exact same way without Stephen Curry? Lmao.
How did the Warriors survive Rudy Gobert?
For everyone scanning the big man market to shore up the Warriors needs, how do you rate Gobert? He had 14 point and 20 rebounds last night!
He’s 7-foot-2 and has plenty of accolades; but isn’t it weird that his team isn’t passing him the ball on the block on the mismatch?
Yikes. And how come Gobert is not being a factor closing out on shooters? Is him dropping back in the paint just a byproduct of the Jazz coaching staff scheming him away from chasing guys on the perimeter? Or is that fear in his heart of being blown by? You tell me why the Dubs kept getting WIDE OPEN shots at the arc where Gobert was the only man to save.
Splash or Die
My gosh Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole ate the Jazz’s perimeter defense up last night. It was so fun to see those guys activate a Splash Brotherly synergy while the eldest Splash Bro watched passionately from the sidelines. The two guards combined for 67 points in dazzling offensive display:
In a playoff-type atmosphere in Chase Center, we saw those two guys come alive in a major way. It’s beautiful that the third year hooper Poole is feeling so familiar with Coach Steve Kerr’s offense and so comfortable in leveraging it with his daring dribbling and deep shooting.
Speaking of shooting, I want to take a moment to reflect on what Klay did in the wake of the chatter around his offense in his return from injury. Duby Dub Dubs ran a beautiful article following Klay’s progress entitled “Settle down, Klay” in the wake of Coach Kerr observing that Klay was pressing to find a new rhythm.
Folks, you saw that clip up there folks of the scoring barrage: was last night Klay settling down or turning it up? Whatever it was, it was a powerful reminder that if anyone’s earned the right to hunt for high-degree-of-difficulty shots, it’s Klay freakin’ Thompson.
37 points in a quarter? Breaking the record for most threes in a playoff game? Setting the record for most threes in a regular season game? 60 points 11 dribbles? And how many times has Klay carried the Warriors when they needed him in dire straits?
Far be it from me, the man whose hottest scoring night came at Cal Berkeley Rec Center open gym when I hit four fadeaways in a row and started talking to my shooting hand like it was alive, to criticize Klay freakin’ Thompson’s shot selection.
That being said, sometimes Klay really is out there jacking shots that make me go “aiite this man is trying to put the Warriors on his back like prime Kobe Bryant (post-Shaq and pre-Pau)”.
But I’ve spent my entire life watching shooting guards attacking defenses off the dribble and taking tough jumpshots. They are called “shooting” guards, after all.
I told y’all last time that Phoenix lets Devin Booker jack all kinds of tough shots and I don’t hear anybody saying anything. James Harden can literally throw up garbage at the rim after dribbling for 20 seconds and is considered a hall-of-famer. So why can’t Klay, who has the records to prove his otherworldy scoring prowess, be allowed to get a little shot happy to figure out his rhythm before the playoffs?
Let me a slide a comparison to you:
Klay Thompson’s averages right now after 30 games: 29.2 MPG, 19.3 PPG, 17.4 FGA, 41% shooting from the field, 37% from downtown.
2007-2008 Golden State Warrior Stephen Jackson’s stats: 39.1 MPG, 20.1 PPG, 16.9 FGA, 40% shooting from the field, 36% from deep.
My, how Warriors fandom has changed. Used to be a time when Captain Jack was adored for taking gusty off-the-dribble jumpers directly in a defender’s face, or jacking deep bombs in transition early in the shot clock.
Now we’ve got Dub Nation members clamoring for Klay to be demoted to the bench as punishment for playing just like this! We know Klay’s return hasn’t always been a beautiful sight, but sheesh who isn’t tearfully proud to see him eagerly wrestling with the responsibility of being a well-paid scoring machine, coming off a pair of potentially career destroying injuries? We didn’t know if the man was ever going to come back to the court again.
There’s a reason Steve Kerr has been vocal about giving Klay the space and the grace to throw up whatever the hell he wants at the rim. Eventually the Warriors are gonna need Klay to do the things only he can. They built a dynasty off of it.
One more thing. The Dubs clinched their first playoff spot since the 2018-2019 season. Can you believe it took that long? It should make Dub Nation grateful for how the Warriors rebuilt the roster in the wake of losing Kevin Durant, tremendous roster turnover, and ghastly injuries.
We definitely shouldn’t take it for granted considering that LeBron James and Kevin Durant are literally on the verge of missing the PLAY-IN tournament.