I don’t know how many Golden State Warriors fans spent their Wednesday night watching their team get demolished by the Utah Jazz. I don’t have access to those numbers, but I’m guessing the number was pretty little.
Even if fans wanted to spend their Wednesday watching basketball - a mid-week strategy I highly endorse, preferably accompanied with a beer - the Warriors offered very little compared to the main attraction of the night: Zion Williamson.
In case you missed it, feast your eyes on the most exciting five minutes of the NBA season thus far:
Look, all due respect to D’Angelo Russell for his one-man act of trying to make the Warriors look like an NBA team while they got stomped by a playoff-bound squad. Russell’s 26 points were fun and flashy.
But that’s about all you can say about this Warriors squad on a night where there were far more appealing options across the broadcast board.
Utah looked the part of a formidable playoff team in winning easily, 129-96. Part of that is because they were facing Golden State, but part of that is because it’s exactly what the Jazz are.
By now, Warriors fans are well used to seeing that stark contrast in talent and execution. It appears every time Golden State matches up with a quality team. Not having Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will do that to you.
Still, this contest managed to stand out, if for no other reason than the disparity between what Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert brought to the table.
Gobert and Green, while having massively different skillsets and body types, are similar players. They’re two of the best defenders of this era, and have combined to win the last three Defensive Player of the Year awards. They contribute on offense, and in the box score, but not always in the traditional ways. They do the little thing that make coaches squeal with delight. They’re often criminally underrated.
On Wednesday, they were not similar players. Gobert torched the Warriors interior, racking up 22 points on 10-13 shooting, plus 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. Green found himself on the other end of the box score spectrum, with 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Gobert’s defense was dominant; Green’s was lackluster.
And yet, if you’ve been watching either player this year - or even just monitoring their stat lines - you’ll know that those numbers and performances were par for the course. Gobert has looked every bit the part of an All-NBA center, while Green has looked like someone who, upon watching his two career-long All-Star teammates get injured, decided to take the year off.
I’ll have more on Green in the coming days, examining what has been undoubtedly a disappointing and frustrating season for him. But for this game, that wasn’t the point; it was the contrast between what he’s currently putting on the floor, and what Gobert is.
Some of their success/struggle is a product of their team’s performance - the Jazz are 31-13, and the Warriors 10-36. Yet the bulk of their success/struggle is what is driving that performance.
But for better (for the Jazz) and for worse (for the Warriors), Gobert and Green’s performances were emblematic of their respective teams, both on Wednesday night, and on the season.
Utah is flying high, locking down opposing offenses, scoring with great efficiency, and doing the little things; Golden State is firing on only a cylinder or two, neither scoring nor defending with any proficiency, and disinterested in doing the little things.
So it goes.