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Using a dominant third quarter, the Warriors blow out the Utah Jazz

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The Jazz can’t slow the Warriors offensive onslaught and lose their third-straight game.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After their emotional and hard-fought victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day, the Golden State Warriors might have seemed ready for a letdown when the Utah Jazz came into Oracle Arena on Wednesday night.

Though the Jazz hung with the Warriors in the first half, the second was a different story. The Warriors outscored the Jazz by 24 points in the second half, on their way to a 126-101 victory.

Another impressive third quarter gives the Warriors the win

Even without Stephen Curry playing, the Warriors once again used a third-quarter offensive explosion to put the game away and render the fourth quarter fairly meaningless. Leading by one point at the halftime break, the Warriors outscored the Jazz 42-22 to balloon the lead to 21 points by the third quarter’s end. The floodgates began to open when Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant both hit these three-pointers.

Durant and Thompson scored a combined 18 points in the third quarter. While Durant had the flashier night (which will be discussed later), Thompson had a solid though not spectacular game, scoring just 15 points. Thompson only took 12 shots against the Jazz while playing a team-high 30 minutes, less than his season-average of 14 (and 5 less than his average of 17 in the month of December). But the two 3-pointers he made in the quarter played a big part in spurring the Warriors on this offensive run to put the game away.

The Warriors' lead continued to grow thanks to some Draymond Green passing and constant movement toward the basket like on this Durant dunk.

Durant finished the game with a team-high 21 points while also collecting six rebounds and four assists. It was another game in which Durant, with Curry out of the lineup, did so many things that helped the Warriors earn the dominant victory.

Warriors also get good contributions from their bench against the Jazz

It wasn’t just the starters who were doing big things against the Jazz. The bench more than got into the act. Patrick McCaw scored 18 points, his highest point total this season, with seven of those points coming in the third quarter.

Though his 3-point shot still isn’t falling with the regularity Warriors fans would like to see, McCaw is still being aggressive and attacking the basket.

While McCaw has been struggling of late, Jordan Bell has been playing well. Returning to the bench with Zaza Pachulia getting the start, the rookie big man still played well against the Jazz. While the 5 points and 13 rebounds is getting to be pretty standard for Bell, what impressed most Wednesday night were his seven assists. Bell earned one here as he finds Green cutting to the basket for the dunk.

Another bench player who put in a good performance against the Jazz was Omri Casspi, scoring 10 points. Casspi again showed his proficiency at moving towards the basket, receiving the Andre Iguodala pass and then laying it in.

Casspi left the game in the fourth quarter after spraining his ankle, though it was not serious enough to warrant x-rays after the game. Along with Iguodala (who only scored 3 points but was a +23 in 20 minutes) and Nick Young (who scored 15 points), the Warriors depth was on display again in the victory against the Jazz on Wednesday night.

The Jazz hit quite a few sour notes in Wednesday’s game

Having lost 5 of their last 6 games and without Rudy Gobert, the Jazz that the Warriors faced on Wednesday night were a far cry from the club they faced in last season’s Western Conference Semifinals.

That said, the Jazz were able to keep things close through the first half. In what looked to be a low-scoring affair through the first two quarters of the game, the Jazz were led by Derrick Favors, who had 12 points and 8 rebounds (including 4 offensive rebounds) at halftime. Favors scored only 5 more points, ending the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

While Favors impressed in the first half, the same could not be said for the Jazz’s standout rookie Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell scored 17 points, but 11 of those game in a fourth quarter that was almost entirely garbage time. Mitchell has been turning heads and opening eyes in his rookie campaign, but owing to great defense by Thompson in particular, he played just a minor role in the Jazz’s game against the Warriors.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors
Though the rookie made a few nice plays, overall Donovan Mitchell struggled against the Warriors on Wednesday night.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Jazz’s leading scorer, however, wasn’t Favors or Mitchell. It was Rodney Hood, who came off of the bench to score 26 points. However, much like Mitchell, Hood did most of his scoring in the fourth quarter when the game was effectively out of reach. Though their offense shifted into a higher gear in the third quarter to win the game, the Warriors defense was once again instrumental in getting the team another victory.

Durant and Draymond make a great duo

Green had another strong all-around performance against the Jazz, making contributions in every facet of the game. In addition to his 14 points, Green also had 8 rebounds and 8 assists, with 2 of those coming in the very first quarter of the game.

Green finished the game two rebounds and two assists short of a triple-double, which he addressed in his postgame press conference.

Both Green and Durant played stellar defense against the Jazz, with Durant again blocking shots and proving to be an outstanding rim protector.

Durant’s defensive performance this season has been remarkable, particularly for a player primarily known as a scorer (at least before he came to the Warriors where the other aspects of his game could be put on display). With Gobert and Kawhi Leonard missing time and Green taking the slightest of steps back defensively, Durant seems to have taken the lead in the race for 2018 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Here was one person championing his case—the reigning DPOY and his teammate, Green.

What we see in Durant’s improved (or more prominent, to put it another way) defense is how great of a pairing he is with Green in a front court.

This recent stretch without Curry in the lineup has really shown that. Much is made of the pairing of the two former MVPs (Curry and Durant) and how they are the greatest duo ever (to reference what Jeff Van Gundy said during last year’s Finals). But I believe that, in many ways, the more important pairing is Durant with his friend Green to form an amazing front court, one that’s incredibly versatile and tough to attack.

While it’s true that Durant has never played with someone like Curry, he’s also never played with someone like Green either. It calls to mind those great Celtics front courts of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, with what they can do on both ends of the court.

I find myself making this point over and over again, in my writing and on Twitter, but it bears repeating— Durant joining the Warriors was not just about accumulating talent. It was about how Durant fit perfectly into this team as the Warriors make Durant better and Durant makes the Warriors better. We saw this offensively last season, especially in the playoffs, and now we’re seeing it on the defensive end as well.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green makes up, along with Kevin Durant, one of the best front courts in the NBA, playing well on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Poll

Who was your Warrior Wonder against the Hornets?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Draymond Green
    (371 votes)
  • 40%
    Kevin Durant
    (404 votes)
  • 16%
    Klay Thompson
    (168 votes)
  • 3%
    David West
    (35 votes)
  • 2%
    Shaun Livingston
    (29 votes)
1007 votes total Vote Now