After the opening-night win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Warriors traveled to Salt Lake City to face off against the Utah Jazz. It was an exciting game that featured 33 lead changes and 13 ties. The game came down to the final seconds but the Warriors escaped Utah with a 124-123 victory. It was particularly nice to get a win in the Jazz’s home arena as the Warriors struggled mightily in their last two trips to Vivint Smart Home Arena, losing those games by a combined 70 points. Unlike those games, the Warriors stayed within striking distance throughout the game and got the last-second win.
Curry and Durant dominate again
Stephen Curry continued his scorchingly hot start to the season in Utah. Curry finished Friday night’s game with 31 points along with 8 assists and 4 rebounds. 16 of Curry’s 31 points came in the third quarter when the Warriors erased the Jazz’s lead and got back into the game after a less-than-stellar first half. Curry did most of his damage from three-point range, going 5/9 from downtown.
The bench was loving this Steph 3 pic.twitter.com/oZKxpQfOKK— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) October 20, 2018
The other reason the Warriors were able to keep this game from totally getting away from them was Kevin Durant. Durant scored 38 points against the Jazz and with making just one three-pointer (the only one he shot on Friday night). Durant also finished the game with 9 rebounds and 7 assists, barely missing out on the coveted triple-double. Durant’s 7 assists, after having 6 in the win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, makes me think that we are really primed to see a leap in Durant’s passing game this season. This also bodes well for Curry having a resurgent season more akin to his MVP seasons of 2015 and 2016.
Curry and Durant combined for 69 of the Warriors’ 124 points on Friday night. With Klay Thompson struggling once again (scoring just 14 points on 4/9 shooting), the Warriors needed every one of those points from their two former MVPs. Both Curry and Durant delivered, and that combination was an enormous part of why the Warriors were able to get this win.
Three-point disparity fuels the Jazz
The Jazz led for large stretches of this game, including by as many as 16 points, because of the three-point shot. Overcoming a rough first quarter from long distance, the Jazz shot 41.3% from three-point range against the Warriors. Perhaps more important than accuracy was the sheer volume of three-pointers the Jazz took against the Warriors. The Jazz took 46 three-pointers on Friday night. Last season, the Jazz averaged less than 30 three-pointers per game so this was a pretty noticeable jump.
While the Jazz were putting up three-point shots in high numbers, the Warriors shot just 19, considerably less than what how many they usually shoot. Those 19 three-pointers were just three more than the Jazz shot in the second quarter, when the home team was able to seize control of the game. The Jazz couldn’t miss in that second quarter, going 16/24 from the field and 10/16 from long distance.
Joe Ingles took full advantage of getting to shoot all these three-pointers, leading the way offensively for the Jazz. Ingles scored 27 points against the Warriors, tying a career high, while going 7/11 from three-point range.
While Ingles shot well from three-point territory, the same could not be said for Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell attempted 12 three-pointers against the Warriors but made just 4 of them. Mitchell, the Jazz’s second-leading scorer, finished the game with 19 points. Though the Jazz had six players in double-figures (including 13 points by both Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum), they didn’t have someone who could really compliment Ingles’ scoring outburst, allowing the Warriors to erase the Jazz advantage and eventually pull out the win.
Fouls and turnovers remain problems
The Warriors’ predilection for turning the ball over as well as their proclivity for fouling their opponent were both on display against the Jazz. 16 Warriors turnovers resulted in 20 points for the Jazz. The Warriors also fouled the Jazz 23 times in Friday night’s win, sending them to the line for 29 free throws (while the Warriors shot just 18). 11 of the Warriors’ fouls came in the first quarter, which allowed the Jazz to get to the free-throw line and overcome some early shooting woes.
Though he played a stellar defensive second half, Draymond Green was a bit overzealous, which led to five personal fouls on Friday night. Damian Jones also had nice moments against the Jazz while matched up against reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, but he also picked up three fouls in the first quarter, preventing him from getting into a good flow and helping the Jazz get into the bonus early in the game.
One would expect these issues, the turnovers and the fouling, to go away as the season goes along or when the games become more meaningful. But right now these things are where the Warriors are struggling and it’s keeping their opponents in games when they might not be otherwise.
Jerebko secures the win
With Andre Iguodala sidelined, one player who saw an increase in minutes was Jonas Jerebko. After playing barely at all in the game against the Thunder, Jerebko played nearly 24 minutes against his former team, scoring 10 points while knocking down a couple three-pointers, helping the Warriors eat those minutes that Iguodala would normally play.
But Jerebko’s greatest contribution came in the game’s closing seconds. With the Warriors trailing by a point, Durant put up a shot that rattled off the rim. But Jerebko, getting position in the paint, was able to tip the ball back in to give the Warriors a one-point lead with less than a second remaining in the game.
The game-winning shot set off a raucous celebration from the Warriors bench, even sending a shirtless Iguodala running out of the visitor’s locker room to celebrate.
Andre, where’d your shirt go? pic.twitter.com/SONdeEkCJT— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) October 20, 2018
After the game, the Warriors’ star players all expressed how happy they were for Jerebko, to get this bit of revenge on a team that cut him loose.
Draymond Green on the Jonas Jerebko tapback winner and ensuing celebration: “Forget the win. Forget the game. My favorite part was him yelling in their bench’s face.” pic.twitter.com/D5Qj4XivlK— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) October 20, 2018
Kevin Durant crediting Jonas Jerrbko for the putback and giving the team intel on the Jazz pic.twitter.com/yTCKzxk0ac— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 20, 2018
They didn’t want ya Jonas.— klay thompson (@KlayThompson) October 20, 2018
At times it looked like the game was setting up to be another blowout loss in Utah, but the Warriors were able to get the last-second win. It was a win that was reminiscent of the 2015-16 regular season, when the Warriors made miracle wins like this seem routine. But it was a fun and exciting matchup in just the second game of the regular season and solidifies that this will be a matchup many will want to see in the postseason.
Finally, to Jonas Jerebko, the hero of Friday night in Utah, I dedicate this song to you.