Now that we’ve all resumed breathing (hopefully), let’s break down easily the most exciting game to take place in Vivint Smart Home Arena since that became the namesake.
My goodness, what a game. While it’s cliche to some point to talk about moral victories, it’s just impossible to come away from this one feeling any differently. Utah took the defending champs, a team on a historic winning streak and threatening all-time great status, down to the wire and gave them all they could handle. They stayed disciplined all night against a team that’s perhaps more difficult to do that against than any to ever play the game. And the best part from this standpoint? The Warriors didn’t play badly by any means.
Golden State shot over 48 percent from 3 on 29 attempts, a fantastically efficient clip. They out-rebounded the Jazz by 101, including 14 offensive boards, several of which were killers. They got a cluster of four threes from former Jazzman Ian Clark to create some separation in the first half. And despite it all, the Jazz are probably streak-breakers if one Rodney Hood three goes down in the closing moments.
“It’s close. Close isn’t good enough, but one we can learn from for sure,” said Gordon Hayward following the game. You won’t catch this group smiling about any Ws that aren’t on the scoreboard.
“I don’t want to say we are here or we are there, but I think our players should feel good about the way they competed,” said coach Quin Snyder.
From this vantage point, there were many more praise-worthy points than true letdowns from the Jazz’s end. They were simply beaten by a better team, one of the best teams we’ve seen in some time. They have nothing to hang their heads about, and if their recent response to adversity has told us anything, Orlando is in for an intense and motivated Jazz team Thursday night. Let’s get to some notes.
118.3 — Points scored per-100-possessions by Golden State. Even when it felt for periods like the Jazz were playing just about as well as possible on that end, the buckets kept pouring in. This Warriors team is remarkable, to say the least.
9 — Number of points by which the Jazz outscored the Warriors when Steph Curry was off the floor.
Discipline against transition: The Warriors feast on opponents in transition, their lethal group of shooters and passers spreading out and often bombing teams to death in short spans that can wrap games up in a hurry. Against Utah, though, they had just five total points in transition — not even a quarter of their season-long average per game. The Jazz deserve real praise for their discipline in this area.
Rebounding: On the other end of the spectrum, an area most wouldn’t have expected the Jazz to post a deficit in was rebounding, but that’s exactly what happened. The overall total can be explained in part by seven more missed shots than their opponent, but a few particular offensive boards were killers after possessions where the Jazz had played fantastic defense. To Golden State’s credit, some of these are a direct result of the offensive style they play — they get teams so off-balance that even when they miss, they have guys in position to capitalize. Still, it’ll be a point of emphasis for Snyder.
Leaders being leaders: Utah’s effort on this night was spearheaded by exactly the guys you’d have expected. Derrick Favors (23-10), Gordon Hayward (24-6-4), Rudy Gobert (13-11) and Alec Burks (19 points) were generally excellent, making timely plays on both ends. Favors is becoming borderline automatic from midrange in the pick-and-roll, and Hayward looked like the force offensively we all know. Gobert had a highlight-reel sequence with a one-handed oop dunk followed by a huge block on the other end, and Burks dragged Utah’s offense out of the mud on a few possessions where they badly needed it.