1. Warriors’ 3rd quarter dominance leads to easy victory.
One of the cool things I get to do as a result of having a credential is talk to media people from around the league about their teams, and tonight was one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had this year. Before the game, I heard from Golden State TV and beat writers that they felt that their teams had not had truly played their best yet, but instead went on 4-6 minute stretches that won them most games. David Locke and I agreed that, essentially, that’s what being a good team is: that you’re able to consistently go on short, dominant spurts to win games.1Maybe it sounds cliche, but the guys who covered the losing team told the winning team’s guys to be thankful for what they have.
Tonight, that spurt was a 3:10 run in which the Warriors outscored the Jazz 20(!)-8. In that stretch, Golden State made all 7 shots, including 4 looks from downtown. 5 of the 7 shots were assisted. None of the points were off of turnovers, so they weren’t fast-break points, the Warriors just executed offensively extremely quickly and lethally. Their possessions lasted an average of 12 seconds2. That was it, and the game was essentially over. Dominance usually isn’t game-long, but it instead appears in unmatchable stretches.
2. Jazz had interesting big man pairings tonight due to Booker’s illness.
With Booker out due to the stomach flu, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Rudy Gobert split nearly all 96 big man minutes, save for the final 2:32 when the game was out of reach. Here’s a quick breakdown of how Quin worked the lineups:
12:00-6:07 Favors/Kanter -4
6:07-0:00 Favors/Gobert +5
12:00-5:25 Kanter/Gobert +2
5:25-0:00 Favors/Kanter -3
12:00-7:08 Favors/Kanter -11
7:08-4:47 Favors/Gobert +4
4:47-0:00 Kanter/Gobert -11
12:00-7:52 Kanter/Gobert -1
7:52-2:32 Favors/Gobert +5
In the end, Favors/Kanter played 16:15 , Favors/Gobert played 13:48, and Kanter/Gobert played 15:30. Favors/Kanter was a -17, Favors/Gobert was a +14, and Kanter/Gobert was -10. The Warriors outscored the Jazz by 27 points when Kanter was on the floor, while Favors was a -5 and Gobert was a +6.
Look, it is wildly unfair to make conclusions based on one game’s +/- numbers. Whoever was on the floor during GSW’s run was going to get punished by that statistic. But there’s a widening body of evidence that says that the Favors/Gobert pairing works almost surprisingly well. Consider the pairings’ NetRtgs for the entire season:
So why doesn’t Snyder just make Favors/Gobert the permanent starting big man pair? While some speculate that it’s to keep Kanter’s value high for a trade, I think the real reasons are less conspiratorial. First of all, Snyder doesn’t want to be unfair to Kanter, whose injury allowed Favors/Gobert to get minutes at all. It’d be really harsh for him to kick him out of the starting lineup after returning from injury. But I think the bigger, second reason, is that the Jazz don’t want to give Gobert too much, too soon, for fear that it will hurt his overall development and work ethic. As Snyder said before the game: “I think we gotta be careful not to say ‘Rudy’s arrived’. He’s arrived in a lot of ways, but he’s got a long ways to go too.” Right now, Rudy knows he’s the toast of the NBA defensively, but they want him to work just a little bit harder at the game’s little things before they reward him with that starting spot. This is just a theory, but it seems to fit the quotes and the evidence.
3. Golden State pushed the Jazz to play at a higher pace.
The Warriors are the league-leading team in possessions per game, with 98.4 per game. The Jazz play almost 10 percent slower at 90.4 possessions per game, which ranks them 28th in the league. Given the difference there, I asked Quin before the game if he had moved on from his “play with pace” mantra from training camp. His response was really interesting:
“No, I think the important thing for us, and I tried to delineate this early on, is it depends how we define pace. For us pace is passing. I’d like to see us get a thrust into a possession to gain an advantage in the possession. If that results in a quick, high-percentage shot, great. But if we push the ball up the court and we throw it to the corner and a guy has an open look, I think sometimes that’s a good shot. For us, I think it’s more effective if the ball actually reaches the paint, and then we break the paint, and then the ball goes back out. But the best way to do that is to move the ball up the court quickly. We’ve got some guys who aren’t accustomed to that. We’re trying to get Trey to take outlet passes beyond the foul line. That’s not how he played in college, that’s not how he’s played this year. I mean, Michigan runs the best offense in college basketball but they’re last in college basketball in pace, so clearly, they’ve figured something out. But there’s habits, just like defensive habits. I think there’s a way for us to approach it that might be defined differently than a team like Golden State or Phoenix or Boston3, those are teams that if you look at them they have 3 or 4 point guards, however you want to define Bledsoe, Dragic, Thomas. We don’t have that right now.”
Essentially, Quin seems to be saying here “It’d be nice to play with pace, but we don’t really have the personnel of the league’s pace leaders.” Trey Burke’s role in creating pace is interesting: both Ty Corbin and Quin Snyder have tried to create pace with him on the floor, but Trey has been more comfortable to roll back, receive the initial pass in the backcourt, and set up the 5-on-5 offense. That Quin and the coaching staff are working on changing that is an indication that they’re not quite happy with the mix right now.
Tonight, each team had 96 possessions, right in the middle of the two teams’ averages. But in the end, Golden State had 22 fast break points to the Jazz’s 3. That’s something the Jazz will need to prevent to win consistently, no matter what pace they end up playing at.