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Preview: Warriors take a quick one-game road trip for rematch with Jazz

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Utah has had a rough early go of the season. Can they hope to turn it around against Golden State?

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a wire-to-wire domination of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Golden State Warriors head into Utah to take on the Jazz, another playoff-hopeful team that hasn’t quite met expectations this season.

Don’t just look at the Jazz’s poor showing in the Western standings, this is a tough team that has an enormous home court advantage due to altitude. The Warriors are starting to look like their old selves again, but the Jazz tend to be one of the tougher matchups and are playing below expectations so far. This could be a tough game. As per NBA.com, a second win in Utah would be just the third time Golden State won two games there since 1981. So let’s get retro and grab a win!

Game Details

WHO: Golden State Warriors (21 - 10) at Utah Jazz (14 - 17)

WHEN: Wednesday, December 19; 6 p.m. pacific

WHERE: Salt Lake City, UT

WATCH: NBCSBA

WRADIO: 95.7 The Game

What’s up with the Jazz, anyways?

Coming into the season, the Utah Jazz were generally regarded as one of the teams to beat in the West. Fresh off a strong finish the previous season, with another year of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert working together alongside a rejuvenated Ricky Rubio, it was not even a leap to call them one of the top teams in the West.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way for them. In the wild Western conference, the Jazz already find themselves seven games back and only saved from being dead last in the West by the woeful grace of the Phoenix Suns. Being down so far in the standings this soon is hardly an insurmountable challenge, but early returns on their season all seem to point towards trouble.

Their defense, long a hallmark of their team, has slipped a bit — down to eighth in the league. Still in the top ten, but hardly enough to overcome their anemic offense. Never an especially threatening offensive team, the Jazz have fallen back this year due to a decline in output from a number of players.

Though Mitchell is still scoring at about the same rate (21 points per game), his efficiency has dipped — he’s hitting just 30 percent of his three pointers, and his true shooting percentage dropped down to .517. Neither of these are horrible, but when a player running a 30 percent useage rate isn’t an efficient scorer and doesn’t generate many assists, it can be a problem.

In a hail mary sort of move, Utah traded Alec Burks and two second round draft picks for...Kyle Korver? He’s no Jonas Jerekbo, but Korver can definitely provide shooting off the bench (assuming he can stay on the court against the speed of Golden State).

As Andrew Bailey points out in this excellent article over at SLC Dunk, it isn’t necessarily that the team is bad — they’re just wildly inconsistent. Take a look here at the contributions from their main threats, in wins versus losses:

looky there, they play bad in losses, who’d have guessed!?

If the Warriors can jump on them early, it looks like Utah will fold. I’m not sure how much to read into the fact that they play much worse in losses, but I do think it points to some of their struggles being about more than just simple noise from a tough start to their season.

Even though I’m sure he could, let’s not ask Jonas Jerebko to save this game for us

Anyone else remember this?

It was our first real introduction to how good Jerebko could be.

We really don’t have much to update on the Warriors. The team is finally getting healthy, with just Demarcus Cousins and Damian Jones on the injured list. The tension that fomented when Draymond Green laid into Kevin Durant is either gone, or pushed so deep into the background that it would make a dad from the 1950’s proud.

In the wake of that tension, and the string of bad injury luck, the Warriors are finally finding their footing. This is just a short road trip, bookended by home games once the Warriors travel back to take on our old friend Harrison Barnes and the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

So let’s get it!

Predictions

I feel like the Warriors have found their mojo again, and the Jazz are susceptible to crumbling when a game feels out of reach. The only real question left is if the Jazz have anyone who can hang with Jerebko. I think not. Warriors 115, Jazz 101.