1. Jazz use their size to bully Golden State.
A great deal of the Warriors’ success this season is due to their positional versatility in the starting lineup. That’s especially true with regards to Draymond Green, who uniquely has been able to figure out how to defend some of the biggest PFs in the league, including Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, and more.
Tonight, though, the Jazz exploited Golden State’s frontcourt, especially when the Warriors had the ball. Here are the lines for the Warriors frontcourt players tonight:
On the season, those 6 players combined average 57.9 points, 37.4 rebounds, and 13.8 assists on 23 for 47 shooting. Tonight, they accumulated 33 points, 24 rebounds, and 11 assists on 12-35 shooting. The Jazz’s 5 frontcourt players, on the other hand, accumulated 73 points, 46 rebounds and 11 assists on 29-60 shooting. Much better.
Certainly, some of this is because the Jazz’s talent is distributed towards the bigs, where the Warriors strength is their vaunted backcourt. But tonight, the Jazz’s frontcourt was so successful against their opposition that the Warriors backcourt couldn’t make up the difference.
2. Then, when Golden State went small, the Jazz responded.
So given that his team was being beaten on the glass, in the paint1, and in defensive rejections, Steve Kerr made a smart move with his team down 16 with 9:14 left in the 3rd: he started to play extremely small. He subbed Andre Iguodala in for Andre Bogut, giving the Warriors a line of Steph Curry/Klay Thompson/Andre Iguodala/Draymond Green/Harrison Barnes. That lineup’s been very successful for the Warriors, having played it 46 minutes and getting a +18 on their opponents.
The Jazz didn’t budge. With the Warriors having no traditional bigs in their lineup, the Jazz kept two in theirs, continuing to play two of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Trevor Booker and Rudy Gobert during the whole stretch. Instead of faltering under the perimeter heavy lineup, the Jazz stayed true to their system, including a lot of switches and traps lining the Jazz’s bigs up against a hugely spaced front court. The Warriors played the Jazz even during this segment of the game lasting nearly 6 minutes, a huge win to protect the 16 point lead.
Quin Snyder explained the thinking: “That’s, like, a tough decision that comes up. I think, for us, to not chase a matchup situation given our personnel [makes sense]. I have a hard time finding minutes for all 4 of our bigs anyway. I felt like Book is a more natural fit if someone does go small, but we’re challenging our bigs to be able to defend out in the perimeter, and I feel like I need to give them an opportunity to do that. So that’s what we decided.”
Still, it resulted in some pretty entertaining matchups:
3. Gordon Hayward is a supernova.
Yeah, he didn’t get voted into the All-Star game, and no, he didn’t really deserve to be with the incredible competition in the Western Conference. But Gordon Hayward has it all. His stat line of 26 points, 15 rebounds2, 6 assists, 3 steals absolutely displays his incredible versatility, making an impact on all facets of the game like very few others can. Most impressive to me, though, was how he got his points: going on the drive, bouncing off of some of the league’s best defenders to free up space for himself, then making those shots with relative ease.
But it’s not just the scoring: Hayward’s presence makes the team around him better. When Hayward’s off the floor, the Jazz crater, getting outscored by 10.9 points per 100 possessions. That’s easily the lowest of any player3. But when he’s on the floor, the Jazz are essentially an average team, only being outscored by 0.4 points per 100 possessions. When Hayward’s on the floor, the Jazz take more shots, make a higher percentage of those shots, rebound more shots, get more assists, commit fewer turnovers, commit fewer fouls, draw more fouls, and even make a higher percentage of those FTs. It’s comprehensive.
If you’ve been reading this site for a while, the above is not a surprise to you. We’ve pointed it out before. But I continue to run into people in the real world who somehow think that Hayward is overpaid, a bad player, a selfish player, a cancer, or any combination of the previous. And I need those people to realize the error of their ways, apologize, repent, and find the truth. So, I’m starting a hashtag campaign, and am welcoming your suggestions. Right now, I have #DissuadeTheCommonersFromTheirFoolishHaywardFalsehoods, but I suspect there’s something snappier. Clearly, I need help. Please submit yours in the comments. And when you run into someone who has #HalfwitHaywardHate, remember: it’s your duty to make a difference.