When: 7:30PM PST on Friday, October 19th, 2018
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena — Salt Lake City, Utah
How to watch: ESPN, NBCSBA
How to listen: 95.7 The Game
Buddy Blog: SLC Dunk
Warriors: Andre Iguodala (left calf tightness) questionable, DeMarcus Cousins (left Achilles’ rehab) out.
Jazz: Raul Neto (hamstring) questionable.
This season, the Utah Jazz are the average basketball nerd’s chic, dark-horse, fever dream of a new Western conference power. They’ve occupied this swirling position in the hot-take cauldrons of NBA prognosticators for a few years now.
2017: “The Utah Jazz Are Dark Horse Contenders” from Vice
2016: “The Utah Jazz Are Looking Good — Really Good” via The Sports Quotient
2015: “Jazz hope a young roster can take the next step” per SB Nation
Utah has indeed escaped the wreckage of the Deron Williams-Carlos Boozer era and rebuilt a roster around young, likable stars like Donovan Mitchell and Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. They have feisty veterans Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio, and Derrick Favors who have no qualms getting their hands dirty in a battle. They have a no-nonsense tactician coach in Quinn Snyder, a man who I believe also played the bad guy in a “Mighty Ducks” sequel.
They even have the second greatest home crowd advantage in all of the “Big Four” American sports, according to a study done this year (the number one spot belongs to the Denver Nuggets). They play in high-altitude and tend to grind exhausted opponents into the ground in front of a passionate home crowd.
They are also are the winner of some curious Dubs related trivia, per Eric Woodyard of the “Deseret News”:
Who is the only NBA team with a winning record against the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the last two seasons?
Answer: the Utah Jazz.
Although Golden State owns the best win percentage (.798) in NBA history over the last four years in the regular season and playoffs combined, somehow the Jazz have posted a 4-3 record against them in the past two years.
Last season, Utah spanked the Warriors three times by margins of 30, 19, and 40, but they can’t bring that same slow approach from its last game into this one.
Wow, those are some interesting numbers. I wonder why they also didn’t mention the two teams’ 2017 playoff meeting. Remember when the Warriors activated “Night Of the Living Brooms” mode in 2017 to sweep Utah and their nightlife out of the playoffs in four games? Former Jazz savior-turned-pariah Gordon Hayward saw the true power of Golden State that series and resolutely abandoned Utah to play for Boston.
Nonetheless, it’s clear Utah has only grown stronger since then, eliminating the fraudulent Oklahoma City Thunder from the playoffs last year before being artillery barraged by the Houston Rockets in the second round.
The Jazz have relied on a methodical pace (fifth slowest in the NBA last season) and a disciplined, airtight defense (allowed fewest points in the NBA last season) to determinedly choke out the opposition’s will. Their physical defenders funnel ball-handlers into the towering defensive presence of their center Gobert. The “Stifle Tower” is a threat to block everything in the paint, and the shots he doesn’t swat are usually because the shooter panicked and threw up something ugly.
The Jazz are going to play their first home game of the season against the Golden State Warriors, and the building will be rocking with the anticipation of a prize fight. Utah has spent the last several years trailing in the wake of the Golden Empire and know they have to measure themselves against the best. They will be amped to use this early season test to put the champs on notice.
They come into this contest undefeated, fresh off a slugfest victory over the young Sacramento Kings.
Meanwhile in the Golden Empire...
The back-to-back champions descend into Salt Lake City looking to work on their conditioning. They were sloppy for portions of Opening Night, something their head coach Steve Kerr attributed to pure exhaustion.
Steve Kerr on the Warriors’ conditioning level pic.twitter.com/ir7B0fGIVY— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 17, 2018
The extreme altitude should provide quite a conditioning test tonight. In addition to getting in better shape, the champs will be tinkering with lineups as Andre Iguodala battles injury. The Warriors’ Swiss army knife may not play as he eases his way back from the left calf strain he suffered opening night. The veteran’s absence puts some pressure on the Dubs to dole out his crucial minutes in creative ways. Will Jonas Jerebko or Alfonzo McKinnie get a bigger chance to shine?
The Cook-Klay-Livingston-Jerebko-Bell lineup is Kerr's early leader in the clubhouse for strangest 5-man unit of the season.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) October 17, 2018
Thankfully, the Warriors have less questions about their budding big man rotation. On Opening Night Damian Jones, Kevon Looney, and Jordan Bell took turns out-muscling the gritty Thunder bigs for key rebounds, blocks and dunks. It was a welcome, yet surreal, sight. Per Brian Witt for NBA.com:
Golden State got their new season started off on a positive note with a 108-100 victory over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Opening Night on Tuesday, and the big man rotation was a major reason why. Jones and Looney had standout performances in particular, with the former playing well in his first career start, and the latter notching his first career double-double in just 18 minutes off the bench.
For Jones, it was a night to remember – and not just because he got a shiny new championship ring before the game started. In addition to making his first career regular season start, Jones established career-highs in points (12), made field goals (six), blocks (three) and minutes (27). His supreme athleticism was on display from the start, as his first four baskets all came by way of the dunk. He also led Golden State with three blocks in the contest.
The baby bigs will have an intense test against the Jazz’s physical front court of Gobert and Favors. If the young fellas can fluster Utah’s big men and contain the penetration from Mitchell or Rubio’s dribble attacks, the Jazz will get terrorized off of their home floor.
Easier said than done, though. Since the 2016-2017 season, Utah has posted a win percentage of .695 (57-25) at home, seventh best in the NBA over that time span.
The Warriors’ player this game is most important to the legacy of: Damian Jones. If he dunks on Gobert’s head and stymies the French giant from dominating the boards, Jones’ stock will rise in the eyes of the basketball world.
The Jazz player who wants to ball out the most: Donovan Mitchell. The youngster who shattered the rookie record for made three-pointers in a season had a whole summer to work on his game. Now he gets a chance to show his powers versus the deadliest point guard in NBA history — two-time MVP Stephen Curry. If Mitchell can put on a show at Curry’s expense, he will undoubtedly level up in NBA Twitter respect.
Gold-blooded prediction: A pair of 1-0 records collide! Which franchise will have its dreams of a perfect 82 win season dashed?
I believe the shorthanded (don’t forget DeMarcus Cousins isn’t playing) Warriors ride sheer talent and experience to outlast the Jazz down the stretch in front of a raucous Utah crowd. Klay Thompson erupts in a bounce back game from Tuesday’s dismal 5-of-20 shooting performance.
Warriors 110, Jazz 105
How will tonight’s game go?
This poll is closed
The champs weaponize joy and silence Utah’s crowd in a blowout
The Warriors escape with victory in a close battle
The Jazz protect home-court with a narrow victory
Utah haymakers the champs into submission as Kevin Durant and Steve Kerr both get ejected