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Warriors vs. Jazz Preview: A prequel to the playoffs?

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Golden State and Utah could face off in the first round.

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Utah Jazz v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

After six straight games against teams on the outside of the playoff standings, the Golden State Warriors get an absolutely brutal back-to-back against the top two seeds in the Western Conference. And it starts tonight with a showdown against the team sporting the best record in the NBA: the Utah Jazz.

However, the Dubs are catching a break, as the Jazz will be missing their starting backcourt.

The deets

Who: Golden State Warriors (35-33) vs. Utah Jazz (50-18)

When: 7:00 p.m. PT

Where: Chase Center, San Francisco, California

TV: NBA TV and NBC Sports Bay Area (available on fuboTV)

Projected starting lineups:

Warriors: Stephen Curry, Kent Bazemore, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
Jazz: Royce O’Neal, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanović, Georges Niang, Rudy Gobert

Last results:

Warriors: Beat the Thunder 136-97 — 4-1 in their last 5 games
Jazz: Beat the Rockets 124-116 — 5-0 in their last 5 games

Team ratings (garbage-time adjusted, per Cleaning The Glass):

Warriors: 110.4 offense (24th), 110.3 defense (5th), +0.1 net (15th)
Jazz: 118.8 offense (3rd), 107.5 defense (1st), +11.2 net (1st)

Injury report:

Warriors:
Eric Paschall — OUT
Damion Lee — OUT
Kelly Oubre Jr. — OUT
James Wiseman — OUT
Klay Thompson — OUT

Jazz:
Donovan Mitchell — OUT
Mike Conley Jr. — OUT
Juwan Morgan — OUT

The story

The Jazz are currently No. 1 in the West. The Warriors are currently No. 8. In a normal year, that would mean they’d be perfectly set up to clash in the first round of the playoffs. Things are a bit more complicated this season, due to the play-in tournament. There’s still a chance that the Warriors get knocked out before they get to play a seven-game series, and there’s a chance that they rise up to the No. 7 seed in the tournament, even though that’s essentially out of reach in the standings.

Still, while things can shake out any number of ways, it remains that Utah’s most likely first-round opponent is clearly Golden State. So in addition to this being an important game in the standings for the Dubs, it could be a preview of a seven-round series on the very near horizon.

Players to watch

Warrior to watch: Steph Curry.

Curry is coming off of one of his best performances of the season, which is saying something given his performances this season. The two-time MVP splashed in 49 points in just 29 minutes of action, and rained in 11 shots from distance. He controlled the action against a very bad defense, and looked dominant.

Now he faces a very good defense — scratch that, an elite defense. But it’s an elite defense that will be sans Mike Conley Jr., Utah’s best perimeter defender. Curry may be wary of attacking the rim with Rudy Gobert lurking, but he could do his usual damage from outside.

Jazz musician to watch: Rudy Gobert.

I’m strongly of the belief that Gobert is the Jazz’s best player, but with two other All-Stars in Conley and Donovan Mitchell, the team has plenty of options to choose from. But with those two guards sidelined by injuries, Gobert becomes the team’s unquestionable best player.

Gobert towers over all of the Warriors options at center, and can swing a game with his defense alone — not many can say that. Keeping him in check is necessary for the Dubs.

Matchup to watch: Draymond Green vs. Rudy Gobert.

While the Warriors will start with Kevon Looney matching up with Gobert, I suspect we’ll see them go to a small lineup early and often. Gobert may be a historically-great defensive player, but Green can make life hard for the big man if he gets out and pushes the ball in transition. On the other end of things, Draymond is one of the best players we’ve ever seen at disrupting lobs, but he’ll be sacrificing more than half a foot in height and will have a tall task cleaning the glass.

Keys to victory

  • Limit Rudy Gobert’s offensive impact
  • Keep up on the glass
  • Play a fast-paced offense: lots of fast break buckets, lots of threes

This would be a very nice game to win.