Golden State Warriors (19-3) at the Utah Jazz (14-9)
How to Watch?
Date: Thursday December 8, 2016
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Time: 6:00pm PST
TV: CSN Bay Area Radio: 95.7 THE GAME
The Golden State Warriors
This team hardly needs an introduction, but let’s give it a go.
This will be the second game of a back-to-back in the Warriors’ brutal road stretch of four games in five nights. In case you missed it, check out our recap of the shellacking the Warriors laid down on the Los Angeles Clippers just over 12 hours ago. Somehow, these players tend to be able to do what would essentially cripple a regular human, so they’ll be fine playing another game on short rest. But don’t be surprised if there are some early bumps in the game.
The Warriors’ offense has started to really hum behind the strength of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Thriving in Steve Kerr’s motion offense, these three players have accounted for an average of 76 points per game.
According to basketball-reference.com, Durant, Curry and Thompson currently hold the top three positions for highest effective field goal percentage among players attempting more than 12 shots per game. So not only are they scoring a lot, they are doing so with tremendous efficiency.
It’s not isolation hero ball either; the team is the epitome of the ideal NBA offense.
That's now 16 games of 30+ assists for the Warriors this season.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 8, 2016
No other NBA team had done it more than four times.
Durant in particular has been phenomenal. He is the only player currently in the top 10 in both shooting efficiency and points per game. Plus, he has one of the sweetest warmup routines in the NBA:
In addition to all that offense, the Warriors are currently the 8th most efficient defense and lead the entire league in blocks AND steals per game.
The scary part? Kerr thinks the team can get even better. Here’s his post game interview after last night’s trouncing of the hapless Clippers:
So yeah, the Jazz will have their work cut out for them.
Kerr stated in last night’s post game interview (see below) that he may rest some players during this game and today it was reported that Shaun Livingston will indeed be sitting.
Shaun Livingston (rest) is out for tonight's game at Utah.— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) December 8, 2016
It’s unclear whether any other players will join Livingston but late breaking news shows that Rudy Gobert will be the only Jazz starter playing tonight, which may make Kerr’s decision on whether to rest more players much easier.
The Utah Jazz
Last season, the Jazz were one of those unfortunate teams that just got bit extra hard by the injury bug. For example, Rudy Gobert, the NBA’s leading shot blocker this season, missed 21 games last season (the Jazz went 7-14 in those games).
Coincidentally, four of their five starters were just announced as out for tonight’s game and Gobert will be the only starter playing.
So tonight, expect lots of Dante Exum and Joe Johnson, and a ton of ugly basketball.
When healthy, the Jazz seem like the type of team that should give the Warriors a problem. They have a long and talented front court, a premier wing player in Gordon Hayward and some intriguing players in the backcourt.
The Jazz managed to acquire George Hill from Indiana for their #12 draft pick and added Joe Johnson to play along the ever improving Rodney Hood. This is a complete transformation of their starting back court from last year — when Raul Neto and Shelvin Mack combined to start 80 games at point guard. Who? Exactly.
After a slow start to the season the Jazz have won seven of their last eight games. And while he isn’t completely healthy just yet, Hayward has been coming back into form after the nasty finger injury he suffered during the preseason. In the Jazz’ last game against the Phoenix Suns, Hayward finished with 28 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and shot 50% from the field. He even had an assist to himself!
The Warriors have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Jazz, including a four-game sweep in last season’s regular season, and the Jazz are without four of their starters. As with most of their match-ups this season, it’s really hard to argue that the Warriors don’t hold an advantage at every position except center. Now that the Jazz are relegated to their second and third string players, this could get ugly.
Along with the Clippers, the Warriors and Jazz are the only teams in the NBA to rank in the top-10 in both offensive and defensive rating. The Jazz are ranked number one in opponent points per game. But once adjusted for pace, the two teams appear to be about equal with the Warriors ranked #8 and Jazz ranked #9 — both with defensive ratings right around 104 points allowed.
It’s going to take an above average offensive performance from the Jazz bench and lackadaisical defense from the Warriors in order for the Jazz to have a chance.
The Warriors had a late night flight into Utah for this back-to-back game so there’s always the potential for an upset. But look for the Warriors to push the pace, and unless the Jazz are able to ride some hot shooting, expect the Warriors to come out of Utah with a victory — and some tired legs.
Warriors win: 122 – 109