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Preview: Warriors look to sweep Jazz in Game 4

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Yes, this series is essentially over. But there are plenty of reasons why the Warriors desperately want to win tonight’s game.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Golden State Warriors vs. Utah Jazz

What: Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Western Conference Semifinals

Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena -- Salt Lake City, UT

When: 6:00 p.m. PST

How to catch it: TV: TNT | Radio: 95.7 The Game

Buddy blog: SLC Dunk

This series is over, but this game matters

Let’s be honest. The Warriors aren’t in any danger of losing this series. Whether they win tonight or not, at some point they will move on to the Conference Finals.

But make no mistake about it – the Warriors know that this is an important game. Not for this series, but for the series that comes after this one.

A key lesson of the 2016 NBA Playoffs was the necessity of closing out a series as soon as possible. Golden State learned the hard way that each additional game brings with it the possibility of costly injuries and flagrant fouls. They don’t want to play a single game more than they have to on their way to the Conference Finals.

Losing the infamous 3-1 lead in the Finals last year after a slew of injuries and Draymond Green’s untimely (and avoidable) suspension gives Golden State the experience to know better than to take Game 4 lightly tonight. And Kevin Durant lost a 3-1 Conference Finals lead to these same Warriors last year, so he’ll come at this game with a sense of urgency, too.

Durant already missed games in the first round due to a calf injury. Green experienced his knee “lock up” in Game 2 and earned his first technical of the playoffs in Game 3. They’re fine for now, but the Warriors will do well to put the Jazz down for the count tonight to avoid the potential wear and tear and technicals that could come in additional games.

The odds are in Golden State’s favor

Fortunately, the likelihood of a win tonight is high. The Warriors outscored the Jazz by double digits in each of the three games in this series, even in Game 3 when Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shot an unusually low percentage from the floor. Zaza Pachulia couldn’t wait to point out that he scored more points than Thompson in that game.

And when you look at what’s coming out of Utah, it’s clear that they know their fate is sealed. After Game 3, Quin Snyder sounded defeated in his press conference and Rudy Gobert actually deleted a July 4, 2016 “there’s only 1 ball” tweet downplaying Durant’s move to Golden State. It will be interesting to see how much energy the Jazz manage to bring to Game 4.

Even if the Utah crowd inspires the Jazz to play to the best of their ability, it’s unclear that the Jazz can handle the Warriors’ stacked roster at the end of the game. When Curry enters the game with six minutes left in the fourth quarter after enjoying his usual rest, the Jazz just don’t have the talent to keep a lid on the Warriors’ offense.

That isn’t to say that the Jazz can’t win this one, as they found some success during stretches of Game 3. Gobert was effective when his teammates found him running to the rim, perhaps taking advantage of some confusion among the Warriors as they attempted to switch on screens (Mr. Durant, please study Game 3).

Golden State shot poorly as a team in Game 3, and Utah deserves credit for that. But I wouldn’t expect the Splash Brothers to struggle that badly in consecutive games.

Heading into this one, Warriors fans have good reason to feel optimistic. If nothing else, Klay Thompson is going to want to outscore Pachulia as much as possible. At the end of the night, expect to see the players sharing hugs and well wishes as the Warriors move on to the Western Conference Finals.

Poll

Will Zaza Pachulia outscore Klay Thompson in Game 4?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Count on it!
    (257 votes)
  • 73%
    Yeah right!
    (1077 votes)
  • 8%
    Both players will be held out of the game to rest for the next round
    (126 votes)
1460 votes total Vote Now