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Warriors vs Jazz Preview: Golden State visits Utah in a potential playoff preview

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The Jazz have limited Stephen Curry to an average of 18 points per game in their previous three games this season, leading some to suggest that Utah could be a tough out for Golden State should the teams meet in the first round of the playoffs. How concerned should Dub Nation be? And should the Warriors play closer attention to resting their starters on the second night of a back-to-back rather than chasing 73 wins?

Draymond doesn't fear the Stifle Tower.
Draymond doesn't fear the Stifle Tower.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Matchup
Golden State Warriors
67-7 (31-7 ROAD)
vs
Utah Jazz
37-37 (23-13 HOME)
Details
March 30, 2016
Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
6:00pm PDT
CSN Bay Area | KNBR 680 AM
Blog Buddy: SLC Dunk
Projected Starters
Stephen Curry G Shelvin Mack
Klay Thompson G Rodney Hood
Harrison Barnes F Gordon Hayward
Draymond Green F Derrick Favors
Andrew Bogut C Rudy Gobert
Key Injuries
Festus Ezeli, Andre Iguodala
Kevon Looney, Brandon Rush
Dante Exum
Alec Burks

★★★


Potential first round preview

Hot off of an absolute thrashing of that dreadful team from Los Angeles that's not the Clippers, the Utah Jazz are getting some press as a potential threat to the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. The analysis included in ESPN's Power Rankings suggests that the Jazz pose a challenge to the Warriors after holding Stephen Curry to an average of 18 points in three games this season. In fact, in their first matchup this season, it required ten fourth quarter points from Curry to seal a three point victory for the Dubs. Should Warriors fans be concerned?

On further examination, Curry's 18 point average in these games is blown way out of proportion here. Sure, in the most recent of these games on March 9, Curry notched just 12 points. But the Warriors also won that game by 21 points while Curry recorded 10 assists. Curry scored 16 points on December 23, paired with nine assists and five rebounds as the Warriors sauntered to an 18-point victory over the Jazz.

I'm failing to see the reason Dub Nation should be concerned about Utah. Perhaps the Power Rankings should consider the average margin of victory in these games, which is over 14 points, and the fact that the Jazz have lost 10 of their last 11 games against the Warriors. Let's pump the brakes on this talk of the Jazz having a chance of beating the Warriors in a seven-game series.

That said, they've won eight of their last ten games and Rodney Hood was on fire on Monday night, hitting eight of nine three-point attempts in the first half. With the size of their frontcourt, the Jazz have plenty of firepower to contend with good teams on any given night. Expect the Jazz to put up a good fight tonight if they can slow the tempo of the game and control the glass, but stop with this nonsense that Utah could win four of seven games against the Warriors.


Rest before the playoffs

Marc Spears from ESPN reports that Steve Kerr doesn't plan to rest anybody tonight and other reports suggest that Kerr is supporting the players' quest to 73 wins. That's exciting for the team and it would be a remarkable accomplishment if the Warriors set that record... just as long as it doesn't interfere with the more important goal of winning another championship.

The Warriors are among the best in the league at using technology to monitor the health of their players and effectively limited players' minutes throughout the season. Kerr understands the importance of rest and the overall health of the team, so it is noteworthy that nobody will rest in the second game of a back-to-back, which seems like as good a time as any to rest players.

Greg Popovich is taking the opposite approach, choosing to rest players substantially as the season winds down. Of course, Popovich's Spurs are relatively old, so it makes sense that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili would get some extra rest before the playoffs. But if the Spurs and Warriors should meet in the playoffs, one of the narratives surrounding the series inevitably will be the fact that the Spurs chose to rest while the Warriors chased the record with home court advantage essentially locked up. The Warriors will be subject to scrutiny should the Spurs appear to be more fresh in that potential series.

In fairness, Kerr and the organization don't have an easy decision to make here. With injuries to Festus Ezeli and Andre Iguodala, it's not as though they have the freedom to rest several starters and expect to continue to win games against playoff contenders. Further, the players might revolt faster than when their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were taken away if Kerr asked them to sit out games.

The Warriors know that most of their remaining games are at home, so rest will come easier between games. And you certainly don't want to lose your momentum as the regular season comes to a close. Perhaps the strategy will change once the Warriors officially clinch home court advantage throughout the playoffs, but for now it appears that Kerr and the Warriors have sufficient confidence in the health of the team to deem extra rest unnecessary. It's a bold move that demonstrates the kind of swagger that the defending champs have embraced this year. Onward to 73!