Jazz Can’t Overlook Warriors Before True Test Begins

Jan 21, 2020, 12:07 PM
D'Angelo Russell...
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA -vD'Angelo Russell #0 of the Golden State Warriors. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz are in the midst of one of the best regular-season runs in team history. The team has won 12 of their last 13 games and 17 of 19 overall en route to a 30-13 record, tied for second-best in the Western Conference. 

Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors have the worst record in the NBA at 10-35 and have lost 11 of 12, including a 129-124 overtime loss to the Portland Trailblazers Monday night. 

Not only are the two teams headed in opposite directions in the win column, but the goal for each team for the remainder of the season has also become polar opposites. The Warriors are happily competing with the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and New York Knicks for the worst record in the NBA in the hopes that the can add a top-three draft pick to a roster full of injured stars. The Jazz are trying to climb the playoff standings in the West to lock up homecourt advantage for as many playoff series as they can host en hopes of making their first run to the NBA finals since 1998. 

Despite the Warriors league-worst record and the Jazz surge over the last month and a half, Golden State is not a team to be overlooked. 

The Trailblazers needed a career-high 61 points from star Damian Lillard to beat the Warriors in overtime in Portland, a game after Golden State beat the playoff-bound Orlando Magic by double-figures. The Warriors, who have played the entire season without guard Klay Thompson, and had the services of Steph Curry for just four games were further shorthanded against Portland as Draymond Game missed the game with flu-like symptoms. Green is considered day-to-day, while guard Jacob Evans missed the game with a concussion.

The Warriors are led by a high scoring – low-efficiency backcourt manned by former All-Star D’Angelo Russell and former Jazzman Alec Burks. Russell leads the Warriors in scoring with an average of 23.3 points per game, but shoots just 42 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three. Burks is averaging a career-high 16.2 points per game but shoots just 40 percent from the floor and 35 percent from the free-throw line. 

The backcourt duo has seen their averages struggle mightily over the last 10 games in Golden State. Russell has struggled since returning from an injury that forced him to sit out five games, shooting just 38 percent from the floor since his return. Burks is shooting just 34 percent in his last 10 outings. The Warriors have the worst offensive rating in the NBA over the last 10 games. 

The Jazz, on the other hand, have found no shortage of offense recently, leading the league in offensive rating since early December. Over the last 10 games, the Jazz are 22.6 points per 100 possessions better than the Warriors. Their offensive rating is 3.9 points better per 100 possessions than the second-highest rated team (Dallas) over their last 10 games. 

The meeting will complete the four-game season series between the two teams – the Jazz have defeated the Warriors in all three outings to date. The two last met on December 13, resulting in a 114-106 victory for the Jazz in Salt Lake City.

The Jazz continue to work Mike Conley back into the rotation after missing 14 straight games with a strained hamstring. The 13 year NBA veteran had missed 19 of 20 games overall with the injury before returning to the lineup in a reserve role. Conley has played an average of 16 minutes in his return the floor and had one of his most efficient outings of the season against the Indiana Pacers Monday night. The guard scored 14 points on 6-8 shooting including 2-3 from the three-point line while handing out two assists in 18 minutes. 

The game against the Warriors signals the end of the Jazz run against the dregs of NBA. After traveling to play Golden State, nine of the next 14 opponents are set to make the playoffs. Four of the five games against non-playoff teams are divided between the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trailblazers who currently sit just two games out of of the eighth seed in the West. 

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