Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals, which saw the Golden State Warriors handily put away the Utah Jazz, felt a bit like a Game 2, which is weird because Game 2 is tonight and that’s what this preview is about.
Quin Snyder — whose visage is so notably locked in eternal grimace that Google’s current Top Story when you search his name is an article entitled “What Does Quin Snyder Look Like?” (in case you’re wondering, the article is internally filed under the category “THIS IS SO STUPID”) — seemingly just didn’t bother with the normal feel-out game that you’ll see in the first of a series. One can only imagine how much tape he and his staff have watched on the Dubs over the past couple years, and so rather than play it out and adjust, Snyder just started with adjustments. May as well get this thing rolling.
Utah’s first round hero, hot yogi Joe Johnson himself, got the start in place of Boris Diaw — an immediate concession to the pace that the Warriors would push, and an early attempt at battling the Warriors’ starters with increased floor spacing. And I think that look contributed toward some success that Utah had, especially in the third quarter, as the Jazz put Zaza Pachulia in jeopardy running 1-5 pick and rolls with space to work.
But Johnson — who finished with just 11 points in 22 minutes and a -15 for the game — wasn’t afforded the chance to work his clutch magic, as the Warriors’ bench held strong heading into the fourth quarter.
Snyder also seemed immediately intent upon taking away the Warriors’ three point shooting as much as humanly possible. Jazz perimeter defenders hugged their men, sometimes literally, at the arc, ultimately holding the Warriors to 24% from long range.
But Mike Brown’s Warriors very quickly adjusted to this by making a thoroughfare out of the back door, consistently cutting shooters toward the basket past guys who were probably still thankful they weren’t getting threes drained on them.
How do the Jazz adjust from here? If they can take away the three as well as they did in Game 1, I’m sure they would sacrifice those backdoor cuts for that virtue. The crucial adjustment they’ll need to make is in transition, where the Warriors outscored them 29-6 — a number far too lopsided for sustainability and indicative of Utah’s failure to put their stylistic stamp on the flow of the game. The Jazz might not score a lot in transition, but they can’t let the Warriors get going downhill to that degree if they want a chance to win. Then again, sending defenders back early trades with second chance opportunities, where the Jazz picked up 16 points in the outing.
They have to hope for a bigger output from Gordon Hayward, who shot 4-15 from the field in Game 1. Easier said than done, with the likes of Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant checking him, but making him more of an on-ball focal point in PNR and isolation might be something they have to try, as loathe as Snyder is to fall back on superstar reliance versus involving all five guys on offense every time down the floor.
And they can continue to hope that the tactic of letting Iguodala and Draymond Green take open shots is a far more palatable option than anything else going on out there. Andre went 0-6 from three, continuing his ominously sub-zero touch from distance in the playoffs (he’s just saving those makes for the Cavs, I know), but Green sunk two of his five threes. Neither guy showed any lack of willingness to take those open shots.
This has probably read more as a Jazz blog post than a Warriors blog post, but frankly, if the Dubs play defense to the level that they played it in Game 1, and if Stephen Curry’s ankle tweak is indeed nothing to worry about, the adjustments that the Jazz make can only help them so much. And adjust, they will — they have to. All the Warriors have to do is control pace, play world-class defense and be ready for those adjustments as they come.