Jazz Easily Crush Warriors Missing Four All-Stars

March 25th, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

Facing a team missing its four All-Stars, Rudy Gobert (27) and the Utah Jazz easily overpowered the Golden State Warriors to stay in playoff position in the fierce battle at the bottom of the Western Conference post-season standings. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

Story of the Game

Embroiled in a back-alley knife fight for the playoffs, the Utah Jazz thanked their lucky stars for the chance to play the Golden State Warriors on the defending NBA Champion’s home court. Though attributing that championship to the Warriors team that took the floor tonight is a mega-stretch. Golden State entered this contest missing all four of their All-NBA caliber talents: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson due to injury, and Draymond Green – on track to return from injury – to illness. 

Thus Utah’s 110 – 91 victory was likely the most obvious of the Jazz’s season.

There is no better illustration of Golden State’s prospects for winning this game than the starting lineup that took the floor. Quinn Cook, Nick Young, Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney, and JaVale McGee opened the game at tip off after incredibly not playing a single second together throughout the entire season as a five-man lineup.

Given the situation, they played admirably in the first quarter, relying on the activity and defense of McGee and Looney to hassle the Jazz into missing seven of their first eight shot attempts. By quarter’s end, the Warriors’s B team held an improbable 22 to 18 lead.

Utah then shrugged off some of its lethargy and, in predictable and probably unavoidable fashion, blew the champion’s backups out of the game, scoring 71 points in the middle two quarters. Combined with a defense that locked down Golden State, allowing only 18 third-quarter points, the Jazz built a 24-point lead that never dipped much below 20 until the final buzzer.

Against simply outmatched opposition, Utah’s talent advantage was obvious as seven Jazz scored in double figures: Donovan Mitchell (21), Rudy Gobert (17), Joe Ingles (14), Jae Crowder (14), Dante Exum (13), Ricky Rubio (11), and Derrick Favors (10). The night presented little drama in anticipation and proved exactly as expected. 

Stars of the Game

Superstar: Rudy Gobert (17 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks)

For about a quarter McGee offered admirable resistance to Utah’s All-NBA center. As his energy and control waned, however, Gobert steamrolled the Warriors without having to enter high gear. Controlling the game both offensively (seven of 11 from the field and five offensive rebounds) and defensively (10 defensive rebounds and 4 blocks), Gobert perhaps more than any other player made it glaringly obvious just how hampered the defending champs were due to injury.

Secondary Stars: Donovan Mitchell (21 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, 4 threes) and Joe Ingles (14 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 4 threes)

Mitchell’s offense hasn’t yet returned to the efficiency he displayed early in the season, but a few positive signs appeared tonight. Making half of his eight three point attempts is a major positive after he has struggled mightily from long range, for the last month in particular. Also, the six assists are his most in several weeks. That he produced an all-around solid game fairly quietly is also encouraging, given how frequently Mitchell has been called upon to provide heroics this season. With every game essential, it’s nice he had a little less pressure and could get up some open jumpers to get his confident shot back.

Ingles continues a simply stellar season, one worthy of serious discussion for the league’s Most Improved Player award. He made four of seven threes while leading his team in assists, displaying his combination of shooting and playmaking that is extremely rare outside the superstar talent in the league. It’s no coincidence that Ingles led all players with a massive plus-30  in his 32 minutes of play, his fourth game this season where the Jazz outscored an opponent by at least 30 points with him on the court.

Secret Star: Dante Exum (13 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 1 three, 17 minutes)

Exum is slowly starting to provide head coach Quin Snyder with some of the bench firepower this team will need to cement a slot in the playoffs. In his best game since his return from shoulder surgery, Exum shot five of eight from the floor for 13 points, repeatedly getting to the hoop with exciting quickness and the ability to finish above the rim. In his last three games, Exum has dished 12 total assists in only 37 minutes of play.

Stats of the Game

26.3 – Per game points scored this season by the five Warriors players who started this game. That’s less than Durant or Curry are averaging by themselves this year.

5 – Jazz turnovers in the first quarter, which kept Golden State in the game. They had only nine the rest of the game.

25 – Second chance points for Utah. Gobert and Favors combined for nine offensive rebounds.

134.4 – Points per 100 possessions racked up by Utah in the second and third quarters. The Rockets lead the league this year at 113.1.

0 – Assists by Rubio, amazingly the second time that’s happened this season. 

Sundries

  • The Warriors are locked into the second seed in the West, thankfully, as it would be a shame if a team this good had its playoff position hurt by the kind of roster decimation they’ve experienced recently. To put it in perspective, consider that the four All-Stars they missed tonight have a combined per-game average this season of 84 points! With Curry out for at least the first round per Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, and with every other star on their roster banged up, what looked like an inevitable clash between the Rockets and the Warriors now looks like it just might be in doubt.
  • With better than a 20-point lead for well over a quarter of play, it is a little odd that Snyder chose to play many of his major contributors as much as he did. Mitchell, Gobert, Ingles, and Crowder all played 30 minutes or more. The team has three days before their next contest, which may have played a role. Still, if any core Jazz player had been hurt in extended crunch time, Snyder would have faced a media storm of second-guessing.
  • Andre Iguodala made four of five three point shots. After the All-Star break, he’s shooting nearly 50 percent from long range! If he can stay hot and the Warriors can get healthy before meeting Houston, that type of shooting from the defensive stopper could be the difference between going home or another title. 
  • David Stockton officially scored points for the Utah Jazz, making two free throws. Those points are in the record book to stay. 
  • Crowder has been so steady it’s easy to overlook how vital he’s become to the team in practically no time. He’s scored in double figures in 15 of 19 games and the Jazz are 13 and two in those contests. They’re two and two when he scores fewer than 10 points. He’s also made multiple threes in 10 games. He’s been everything the Jazz brain trust could have hoped, and he’s been that from the moment he put on the uniform.

The foibles of human injury handed the Jazz a victory they desperately needed. Amazingly, the Clippers beat the Raptors, remaining two games behind the Jazz in the loss column. However, the Blazers defeated the Thunder while the Bucks downed the Spurs. All told, Utah ends the night tied for the seventh spot in the West with the Minnesota Timberwolves (still without Jimmy Butler) and only a single game in the loss column behind the Spurs, Pelicans, and Thunder. 

Astoundingly, it is equally realistic that the Jazz might yet earn home court in the playoffs or fall TWO spots out of post-season all together. Life in the wacky West. On Wednesday, the Jazz will face another team brutalized by injury in the Boston Celtics. That win shouldn’t be quite as easy as tonight, but it will be just as necessary. 

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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