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Recap: Warriors overcome early shooting woes to defeat Jazz 115-108

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The Warriors couldn’t buy a basket to open the game, but played a top-notch defensive game and executed down the stretch to defeat the Jazz.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It was a brutal slog to start the game, but the Golden State Warriors played a brilliant fourth quarter to retake a lead they had relinquished in the previous period, earning themselves a hard-fought 115-108 win over the Utah Jazz.

Don’t let the final score fool you. For the first half of the game, it sure looked as if neither squad would manage to break the century mark. No one on the Warriors could buy a shot from distance with the team going a dismal 4 of 20 from beyond the arc.

But a strong showing on the defensive side of the ball helped the Warriors overcome their shooting woes, holding their opponent to an even worse shooting night, and allowing them to walk away with a three point lead into the halftime break.

Golden State opened the game with an intensity on that end of the court that they’ve typically reserved for the playoffs over the last several seasons. On the first five possessions for the Jazz, the Warriors came away with three steals and two blocks.

In the first quarter alone, the team collected seven steals, which translated into twelve fast-break points.

Klay Thompson, as he has done quite effectively over their handful of matchups, put the clamps down on Donovan Mitchell, doing his part in holding the Utah star to 3 of 12 shooting in the first half.

As a team, the Warriors limited the Jazz to 41% shooting from the field through the first two quarters and were successful in preventing Utah’s supplemental scorers, such as Joe Ingles and Derrick Favors, from scoring.

Unfortunately for Golden State, that level of defensive success wasn’t solely reserved for them, as Utah’s game plan to sell out on Thompson, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant worked well enough to disrupt the Warrior’s offensive flow.

The Jazz threw early double teams at Durant before he even touched the ball, which forced a lot of the action away from him. Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell meanwhile were charged with hounding and harassing the Splash Bros all over the court, which lead to a rough shooting night for Curry and a dislocated finger for Thompson.

The game plan to force the ball into the hands of the Warrior’s tertiary scorers and dare them to make a play gave the Dubs a number of scoring opportunities. Unfortunately outside of Andre Iguodala, no one was able to consistently punish the Jazz for doing so.

In what seemed like an eternity, the number of clean looks for the team’s headliners came far and few in between, and the limited amount of open shots the Warriors got just couldn’t find the bottom of the basket.

Coming out of the half however, both teams began to thaw from their icy dwellings as the ball began to find its way into the net on both sides. Unfortunately a few more happened to fall in the Jazz’s favor, as they outscored the Warriors 40-34 in the period and retook their first lead since the beginning of the game.

But the champs put together a very impressive fourth quarter, with some key moments from everybody, to storm back for the win. Curry, Thompson, and Durant all knocked down timely 3-pointers. Draymond Green — who had perhaps one of his nicest defensive games all season — had a number of key deflections, blocks, and assists. And DeMarcus Cousins had a monster offensive board that lead to an and-1 dunk to extend the lead.

It wasn’t a pretty game, but it was nice to see the team focused enough to battle through some early and late game adversity. Late game execution had been a bit of mess in tight games for the team early in the season (Warriors were 9-7 in close games before the new year). But this latest string of tightly-contested wins can at the very least help sharpen and prepare the team for difficult situations they can expect to see in the playoffs.

Tip-ins

  • I’d be remiss not to further mention Iguodala, who was my MVP for the game. He hit all three of his shots from distance and was an absolute pest on defense. This guy is having perhaps his best regular season in a Warriors jersey.
  • I wonder how much of his movement ability Boogie will be able to regain by season’s end. He has the right idea and makes a good move on a number of post-ups, but his ability to finish just isn’t there with his current level of athleticism.
  • He’s having a down year, but boy has Mitchell struggled against the Warriors this year. He’s been fully forced into a volume shooter and has been held to a super inefficient 29% from the field over three games. He is one of the reasons I don’t quite fear having the Jazz as a potential matchup in the playoffs.
  • Despite Klay having to leave the game momentarily after dislocating his ring-finger on his non-shooting hand, any fears surrounding that injury were quickly extinguished after he went on to score the majority of his points after returning to the court — including another dunk.

Next Up

The Warriors have a short turnaround as they travel up to the Moda Center in Portland to face the Trailblazers tomorrow night.

Steve Kerr already plans on resting Cousins and Shaun Livingston on the second half of this back-to-back. But with this being the last game before the All-Star break, don’t be surprised to see the remaining Warriors try their best to pick up the slack for another win to further distance themselves from a Denver Nuggets team hot on their tail for first place.