6 p.m. PST
Energy Solutions Arena - Salt Lake City, Utah
Buddy blog: SLC Dunk
Now that the pomp and circumstance of the NBA All-Star game is over, it's time to get back down to business.
And hopefully, the brief break in action was enough to get back on the winning path after a dismal five game losing streak entering the break.
The big news entering this game is that doctors have cleared perpetually injured center Andrew Bogut to play back-to-back games and extended minutes in non-back-to-back situations. Of course, there's still the matter of how long it takes this team to actually come together with Bogut in the lineup consistently - if the last five games are any indication, things were not yet clicking with him going in and out of the lineup. But that news makes tonight the first time all season (or ever, if you wish) that we might see the Warriors' rotation looking something like it might look in a playoff situation.
Or something closer to the idealized vision of this unit that we've been waiting for all season.
The Jazz, meanwhile, are humming along having won 6 of their last 9 and losing two games on the road as well as a home game to Chicago. With their improved play, this is a big opportunity for both teams as they jockey for playoff seeding (or merely qualification) - the Jazz are just a game behind the sixth place Warriors and another loss would put Golden State that much closer to falling out of the playoffs.
Utah Jazz Four Factors (via Basketball-Reference.com)
But I'm going to stick to my guns here just to keep things positive: this is a chance for a new beginning. Having Bogut playing closer to full-time will help the team and him establish a rhythm down the stretch. Having Bogut back for potentially extended minutes tonight against a Jazz team that can rebound is significant for the playoff push.
So let's not even venture back to last week when the team's defense reverted back to the Warriors of old and had pessimists - perhaps justifiably - wondering aloud whether the team would even make the playoffs. There are better days on the horizon.