The Warriors have only lost once since March 12, winning 19 of 20 games, AND that defeat came against the Utah Jazz. The Warriors and Jazz faced off on Tuesday night, where the Warriors prevailed 106-94.
Utah, meanwhile, is built and trained to cripple the pace. The Jazz dragged the Clippers into their preferred style all seven games. The Jazz can get back in transition well and work to force bad shots or grate the shot clock. Because of their stingy defense, teams often struggle to find better looks. Either way, it is a win win for Utah’s defense.
Draymond Green stated:
“You have to be locked in on the defensive end (against them), ready to defend for the full 24 seconds.”
He further stated regarding Utah,
“A lot of teams, you start getting under six seconds and a lot of teams just panic and want to get a shot up. You still have time for two or three more passes to a great shot with that much time left and they understand that.”
The Jazz’s plan will be simple: slow the game, limit the variables, keep it close deep into the fourth quarter and then try to steal wins in crunch time. The Jazz thrive in the final five minutes of games, especially if the game is within five to six points.
The Warriors will need to run away from the Jazz early. On the other hand, the Jazz will fight to remain within striking distance late in the game — trying to get an upset.
On the defensive side of the ball, keep your eye on the league’s leading Defensive Player of the Year candidates: Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert. They play different styles of defense and will not likely be matched up against one another, but each will have an impact.
Both players are disruptive forces, but they go about it very differently. Gobert’s defensive strength is his size (7-foot-1 with an 8-foot wingspan). He is a tough defender on the glass and blocked a league-high 2.6 shots per game, contested 10.2 shots per game at the rim and allowed only a 43.9 percent conversion rate.
The Warriors will try to counter by forcing Gobert to the perimeter and into space. Gobert is more agile than the traditional center, but he is still recovering from a knee and ankle injury. We will see how he does with his lateral movement.
Green can guard every position on every inch of the court. And, in the same breath, Green provides surprising rim protection despite his size. But against the Jazz, Green will face more pressure in protecting the glass. When the Warriors struggle, it’s usually because they don’t rebound. And Utah is a great rebounding team.
The Blazers were weak at the small forward position. The Jazz aren’t. Gordon Hayward is a current All-Star and Joe Johnson is a former seven-time All-Star. Both played brilliantly against the Clippers. They’ll be Durant’s primary assignments this series.
Round Two Series Prediction: Warriors in five.