1. There’s no D in “One-night trip to the Bay Area.” No, really, there’s not.
The Jazz never held a lead in this one, and never had a tie after 0-0. In fact, the Warriors lead was in double figures for 44:56 of the 48 minutes, never ceding anything after a 12-0 run to start.
The Warriors are really good, and it would be tempting to chalk this one up to that. But Utah just wasn’t ready. The energy wasn’t there right from the start, despite having had two days off, and most of that was at the defensive end.
I say this a lot, but in a team defensive structure like the Jazz’s that relies on help-and-recover from all five guys, you’re only as good as your weakest link. And the Jazz have had a lot of weak links lately. Part of it is that they haven’t been actively defending away from the ball. If they’re guarding someone weak side — or even guarding someone on a simple cross paint route, a lot of Jazz players just sort of hang out. They start defending after their man has caught the ball. Smart defenders are engaged all the times, but too many Utah players have been defending like they’re on-call: “Page me when I really need to start caring.” It happened throughout the Eastern trip, it happened on Tuesday and it happened a lot on Friday in Oakland.
Gordon Hayward — usually a more engaged defender all-around — did it on consecutive plays in the first quarter, waiting to lock in on the play until the ball came to his man. At one point Alec Burks was casually jogging behind his man who caught, turned and scored a layup before Burks even realized what had happened.
And then the screen defense… Yikes.
The Jazz actually had to play their bigs more aggressively on screens than they’ve been doing on the whole. That’s what you have to do against GSW, but they were probably working against muscle memory a bit, and they looked confused a lot of times. The Warriors have a set they like to run with a multiple-weave pattern out front, a series of side to side screens and constant motion. The Jazz would get completely disoriented on those, almost always allowing an open three or a lob for a short-range attempt.
That’s to say nothing of the Jazz allowing early leakouts. Seven of GSW’s points in that 12-0 opening salvo were transition points, and four were completely uncontested cherry-picks1.
It was obvious early that the Jazz weren’t paying attention to those kinds of details. They were a step late or a missed read away from good defense for most of the night.
2. That said, the Warriors ARE, in fact, good.
Their new offensive principles are really bringing out the talents their guys possess. Andrew Bogut is learning how to score opportunistically, Marreese Speights and Draymond Green are hitting their shots and playing with energy, and of course Los Hermanos Splash are doing the kinds of things they’re known to do.
Golden State runs a one-post flow offense, too, only their guys trust the offense a lot more at this point. You can tell they’re confident and have the green light from the bench because they tend to strike when a moment presents itself. They trust each other to recognize a good shot, and the result is a much more free-flowing, purposeful game than the Jazz are playing most nights.
In contrast, you still see Utah pump fake their way away from open jumpers and otherwise overcomplicate their own lives. They would do well to take note of how free and loose the Warriors are, and how ready they are to take good shots that the flow produces. Watch this play and tell me that the Jazz are trusting themselves to take what the offense presents.
That’s a lot of wasted movement and passing. The offensive movement is creating moments of opportunity, but sometimes they’re not taking what’s there and instead just bounce the ball around the perimeter. This clip right here is exactly why the Jazz’s pace numbers aren’t what we expected: if the early offense isn’t there, the Jazz spend the whole clock looking and waiting for something better to come along. “No, really, YOU shoot.”
Context matters, so it’s hard to take too much positive from a game that was never competitive after the first four minutes. Even the nice things that happened (like Steve Novak’s three triples, including the he-must-give-to-charity high rim bounce) has a huge asterisk that says, “Yeah, but…”
That said, Rudy Gobert had a career-high 12 points on 6/7 shooting just by being active and showing good hands around the rim. All of his shots were in the restricted area, and the one he missed, he quickly collected and put back in. He was disruptive with two blocks and two steals.
Other bright spots: You wouldn’t be overwhelmed by Dante Exum’s line (2 points, 5 assits in 22 minutes), but he had a nice floor game for the most part. Ian Clark had some nice minutes, too, though by that point a playground game had broken out. Enes Kanter played a nice fluid game on offense. All 12 active Jazz players scored.
And, of course, there was this: