Jazz Resemble Warriors Of Old Against Warriors Of New
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – For the third-straight game, the Utah Jazz made short work of their opponent with a 129-96 drubbing of the Golden State Warriors. As the Jazz turned in their biggest win of the season, they’ve begun to resemble the Warriors of the past.
It was not long ago the Golden State Warriors would build double-digit leads in the first quarter, then double those leads, then pepper the opponent with three-pointers as they coasted to 20 and 30 point victories.
With Kevin Durant leaving the team in free agency, and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson sidelined by injuries, the West needed a team to fill that gap and the Jazz seem more than willing to give it a shot.
After snapping a 10-game win streak with a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans last week, the Jazz have won three straight games, and each win has been bigger than the last. First, the Jazz beat the Sacramento Kings by 22. Monday night the Jazz steamrolled the Indiana Pacers by 30. Finally, as if to exact revenge for a half-decade of Warriors total domination, the Jazz erased Golden State by 33.
Just three games back from a strained hamstring, Jazz guard Mike Conley has seen the difference between how the Jazz are playing now versus how they played before his injury.
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” Conley said, “We come with the same focus and you build consistent that way. Right now we’re kind of clicking on all cylinders.”
Much like the 2015-19 Warriors, the Jazz are developing into a team that doesn’t just beat their opponent, they thrash them into oblivion. The Jazz were up 12 with 2:50 left in the first quarter, up 20 with 33 seconds left in the first half, and up 30 with 7:35 left in the third quarter.
“We remember how it was at the beginning of the year,” Donovan Mitchell said of the team’s tendency early in the season to allow leads to slip away, “Just continuing to play, play the full 48 [minutes], just for us – continue to step on the throat, continue to pressure.”
Over the previous 10 games, the Warriors were the 30th ranked offense in the NBA while the Jazz were the best in the league and still, the gap between the two teams was startling.
For the second straight game, the Jazz outscored their opponent in each of the four quarters and have now won 11 of the last 12 quarters over three games. The Jazz 137.2 offensive rating was a season-high for the team and one of the best outings by any team in the NBA this season.
But what separates the good teams and the great teams is the ability to dominate both sides of the floor. The Jazz defense was dominant for a second straight game holding consecutive opponents below the 100 point mark. The Warriors managed just 96 points while shooting just 39 percent from the floor and 26 percent from the three-point line.
As much attention as the Warriors explosive offenses have received over the previous five seasons, their defense was often overlooked. Starting in 2015, Golden State had defensive rankings of first, sixth, second, and eleventh in consecutive seasons.
While the Jazz have had the best offensive rating in the league since mid-December, the defense has been seventh-best in the NBA over the same stretch. As the offense continues to improve, It may be wise not to overlook how thoroughly the Jazz are dominating teams on both sides of the ball.
The first quarter was dominated by Rudy Gobert and Mitchell. The Jazz soon to be All-Star duo had seven points apiece on a combined 6-7 from the floor. Gobert grabbed six rebounds in nine first-quarter minutes and the Jazz led 31-17 after 12 minutes.
By halftime, the Jazz led 65-43, Gobert had upped his numbers to a 15 point, 11 rebound double-double, while Mitchell matched his front court teammate with 15 points.
The Jazz scored 31 points or more in each of the first three quarters, topped by a 35 point third quarter and led 100-69 over the first 36 minutes of the game.
The team got off to a head start on their two-day rest period before hosting the Dallas Mavericks in Utah on Saturday afternoon, as the only starters to play in the fourth quarter were Mitchell and Royce O’Neale who combined for 6:57 total in the final period.
Mitchell finished the game with 23 points on 8-13 shooting and 4-8 from deep. Gobert wrapped up 33rd double-double of the season with 22 points and 15 rebounds, connecting on 10-13 from the field.
The game was such a blowout Ed Davis recorded his first minutes in five games, finishing with two points and four rebounds in seven garbage time minutes. Only Gobert eclipsed the 30-minute mark for the Jazz in the game.
“I think we’ve had an opportunity to get guys minutes shaved down particularly as our bench has been playing well for us. ”Snyder said of the low minute totals for his starters, “It will be good to get a real off-day tomorrow.”
In total, all 13 players who dressed for the Jazz not only played, but scored for the team.
The Big Picture
With both the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers losing Wednesday night, the Jazz sit alone with the second seed in the Western Conference with a 31-13 record. It’s remarkable to think back to when the Jazz fell to 13-11 on the season after a disheartening loss at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Jazz have gone 18-2 since to climb near the top of the Western Conference Playoff picture.
Conley’s minutes continue to grow with the team, as does his comfort. The 13-year veteran in just his third game back from a hamstring injury played 18:30 minutes, his high since returning, while scoring eight points on 4-10 shooting. Conley struggled from three, missing all four of his attempts but was a bench high +11 in his time on the floor.
Snyder stayed with Conley for six minutes in the fourth quarter, perhaps an indication that a move back to the starting lineup is near.
Though Conley may soon return to the starting lineup, the Jazz may want to keep the ball in Joe Ingles hands as much as possible as a playmaker. The Australian star who was moved into the starting lineup in Conley’s absence handed out eight assists against the Warriors. Ingles has recorded at least five dimes in six straight outings and has fallen below that mark just once in the last 13 games.
“It’s fun basketball right now,” Conley said, “Guys are taking to heart the unselfish play and making the extra pass for each other and it becomes contagious. “
Jazz host the Mavericks Saturday in a rare mid-day game. Tipoff is at 3 PM MST.
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