When the Warriors brought in Kevin Durant, it was for games just like this.
After being up double digits early, the Warriors went cold and allowed the Jazz to battle their way back into the game. Our historic big three were relatively silent on this night - Klay Thompson ended the night with six points, Draymond Green with nine, and it took a late flurry for Steph Curry to work up to his 23 points on the night.
But Durant was special and he saved our bacon tonight.
He scored in transition and in the post, twisting past defenders, overpowering and outleaping, and flinging the ball in from all over the court. He’s a matchup nightmare and the Jazz let it happen while they focused on taking away Curry and Thompson.
From the outset, it was clear that this was going to be a chippy game. Both sides were battling for every inch and the referee whistles were frequent reminders. Draymond Green was the early victim, picking up two quick fouls within the first four minutes of the game - one of which was so questionable that it was rescinded by the refs during a timeout. However, just a few minutes later, they whistled him again on what looked like a clean block.
Ugh. Fine. Green was not quite as sanguine about the whole thing, and unfortunately he picked up his first technical of the post season while chirping at the refs from the bench. It was mostly frustration, yes, some calls were missed, but more than anything, Green just wasn’t playing great.
We mentioned in our preview that the Utah Jazz had not held a lead yet in the entire series. Well, that ended when they hit a corner three to take the lead over the Warriors at the end of the 2nd quarter. They held that lead all through the third before finally sliding under the overwhelming wave of the combined power of the Warriors’ offense and defense. Here’s the play where the Dubs finally reclaimed their place atop the scoreboard:
That was Curry’s first made three pointer on the night. And not to keep on about that Durant guy, but up until Curry made this shot, Durant was the only Warriors player who had scored in double digits.
Once the Warriors got the lead back, the game slowly inched its way back into Golden State’s control before a late run sealed it. Curry finally started hitting his shots, and Durant just continued to be too much for the Jazz to handle. Things got real chippy at the end (h/t to Bram for finding this):
I get it. Tensions are high. Hell, I’ve seen dudes almost fight at my super friendly old man basketball games that mean nothing. The Jazz, and their fans, were REALLY hoping for a win tonight. It’s frustrating when you play as well as you can but just can’t move the needle. I think that’s what happened here - we saw that these guys care. Sure, they may not have handled it as well as they could have, but isn’t that the point of these extra-intense playoff games? Everything is in the red -the players, the minutes they play, the hustle they play with. It’s more than their jobs that they’re playing for. So I’m really okay with all the late game theatrics.
This brings the series to 3-0 in favor of the Warriors. The Jazz knew that in order to have any reasonable hope in this series, this was pretty much a must-win game and they played like it.
Gordon Hayward led the way for the Jazz with 29 points and six assists and Gobert did everything he could with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks. But as we mentioned in our preview, those guys needed to have those big games and another role player had to emerge as a factor. It just didn’t happen, and that’s pretty much where the story is likely to end for this year’s iteration of the Utah Jazz. Young and talented as they are, the Jazz still lack the depth to beat a team like the Warriors in a seven game series. Pushing and yelling about it won’t change that.
Here’s your box score; I’ll update this story with interviews and recaps as they become available.
Next up: Warriors at Jazz, Game 4 - 6pm on monday
Links, and such:
BIG STEVE KERR NEWS! (h/t to reddit user swegn): Steve Kerr had procedure for spinal fluid leak at Duke yesterday. "Hopefully solved it...hopefully return to the court sooner rather than later"
Warriors soundcloud (no interviews posted as of 9:45pm)