Warriors continue dominance over Utah Jazz with New Year's Day victory
Golden State's defense put the Jazz on mute.
The Golden State Warriors shocked the world again, getting the 123-116 upset win on the road against a Utah Jazz team recently called the “title contenders nobody wants to talk about.” (I’ll get to why nobody wants to talk about them a little bit later).
This was a big win for a Warriors squad missing two future Hall-of-Famers in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, as well as the tallest player on their roster, prized prospect James Wiseman. This Utah team is statistically elite and had a major size advantage down low thanks to their French giant, the 3x DPOY center Rudy Gobert.
If there was ever a game to worry about the Dubs coming out with a victory, this should have been it.
Golden State got off to a hot start, taking a 64-50 lead at halftime. But there was no way the Jazz were going to lay down at home in front of their fans on New Year’s Day. Their pick-and roll-started flowing, they started bodying the Warriors on the offensive glass, and received the benefit of the doubt on some calls that incensed the visitors.
The Jazz outscored GSW 41-22 in the third frame and eventually took a 94-86 lead in the fourth quarter, giving the shorthanded Dubs every opportunity to believe it was time to give up. That’s when the Warriors defense suddenly lowered the volume on the Jazz’s offense.
The defensive lineup that saved the game
With Steph Curry on the bench early in the fourth quarter, Coach Steve Kerr unleashed a Poole-Wiggins-Porter-Iguodala-Kuminga lineup that ground Utah’s offense to a screeching halt with a combination of size, athleticism, and savvy. Here’s the proof:
6-foot-1 Utah guard Mike Conley can’t find any daylight on this drive to the basket and past 6-foot-4 Jordan Poole and 6-foot-7 Andre Iguodala. Conley coughs up a turnover that leads to an Iguodala dunk:
Conley can’t lose 6-foot-8 veteran Otto Porter Jr. on the drive, which leads the 6-foot-4 Jordan Clarkson to try and blow by 6-foot-8 rookie Jonathan Kuminga. JK hounds him step for step and pushes him into a tough angle for a bricked layup:
Next Utah possession, 6-foot-1 Donovan Mitchell tries to cross up OPJ and ends up in prison. He goes for the Mamba Mentality ultra pivot turn around jumper from the free throw line, which gets nerfed immediately by OPJ’s length and instincts. Look at the other Warriors players hawking the passing lanes: there’s nobody open!
Next Utah possession, Mitchell drives against 6-foot-8 Andrew Wiggins for a layup attempt. Wiggins forces “Spida” into a tough lefty scoop shot that he probably converts easily if he didn’t have to take off from seven feet away from the basket.
Last but not least in this hellacious onslaught of defensive dominance, Wiggins catches a mentally exhausted Clarkson slipping with a steal in transition, leading to a Kuminga dunk that brings the Warriors to 94-93 with 8:26 remaining in the fourth quarter.
This crucial 7-0 run happened without Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, or Draymond Green on the floor against a Jazz team looking for the kill. That’s how versatile and deep this Golden State depth chart is right now.
The Warriors ultimately held the Jazz to 43% shooting, which is extra delicious considering the Jazz came into the game leading the NBA at 47% shooting from the field for the season.
If you wanna check out a deeper dive into how this game finished, check out our guy Eric Apricot’s latest Explain One Play episode:
New Year, Same Jazz
So a little while ago I wrote an article asking the good folks at DNHQ which Western Conference team was worthy of being concerned about for us as Warriors fans.
I pretty much handwaved the usual suspects, which got some mixed responses in the comments. Some felt I was being too arrogant, some felt I was dead-on that the Warriors are a cut above the rest.
But now that the Warriors have humiliated the Phoenix Suns and Utah within a week of each other despite being nowhere near full strength, perhaps maybe the West really isn’t as scary as some may have believed in the preseason?
I mean, do you recall that the the duct-taped Dubs from last year who didn’t even make win the play-n tournament still won their season series against #1 seeded Utah? They have a roster designed to torture Utah’s weaknesses.
Here comes some spicy Gold Blooded barbershop hooper eyetest analysis.
Utah’s led by short guards and as we saw in the clips earlier, 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.
He tallied an impressive 20 points and 19 rebounds last night in a gritty effort, but 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.
This is like a layup for Steph lmao.
I’m not worried about Utah, but if anyone has a compelling argument as to why I should be besides “what if Steph Curry retires in the middle of the season”, I’d be interested to hear it.
Now I’m off to finish some holiday eggnog, happy Sunday!