In a thrilling playoff game on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills combined to score 25 points in the final two minutes, a stunning display of late-game offensive power. Then, the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz did the opposite of that. Each team scored just five points in the final six-and-a-half minutes of the game, and that was just enough for the Warriors to hold on for a 94-92 victory. Sometimes when you play the Jazz, it’s the shots you don’t hit that matter.
Jordan Poole and Kevon Looney were the heroes, with Looney’s and-one putback off a Poole miss providing just enough for the Dubs to survive an 11-point quarter where they went 0-10 from three-point range. The team didn’t score after that, but the defense showed up. First, Steph Curry stole the ball from Mike Conley, and on the next possession, Otto Porter Jr. blocked Conley’s shot. Then Porter got a little lucky, when Bojan Bogdanovic’s stepback three rimmed out, as did Royce O’Neale’s attempted putback at the buzzer.
It’s kind of a copout to make four separate plays the Clorox Clutch Moment of the Game, but who are we to argue with the Clorox Company?
Poole led the Warriors with 20 points, his second straight 20-point effort in Klay Thompson’s absence. Porter chipped in 13 points and 8 rebounds on just seven shots, one of six Warriors in double figures. He also had three three-pointers and three steals (though one of those should have been credited to Steph). Andrew Wiggins was +10 for the game, despite a 6-17 shooting night, but he played solid defense and nabbed two steals of his own. And Damion Lee had twelve off the bench, all on three-pointers, helping to negate Steph Curry’s 1-13 effort from deep. He also did a dance.
Curry’s shooting woes continued, as he’s now shooting under 30% on threes for the month of January, the main reason his scoring is down to 20.8 points per game for the month. He finished with 13 points, just three in the second half. It does appear that he’s compensating by upping his assists and keeping his turnovers down, as Steve Kerr said when he pointed out Steph’s 34 assists and 6 turnovers in his last four game. “Headline that,” he added. Still this slump is the most confusing issue facing the team. He generally catches fire after the All-Star break, so perhaps the true Curry Flurry is coming.
For Utah, Rudy Gobert once again destroyed the Warriors on the boards, pulling down 18 rebounds, one less than the 19 he had earlier in their New Year’s Day contest. Looney did his best, but the undersized Warriors once again struggled with opposing big men with Draymond Green out. Gobert finished with 12 points, though he controversially got pulled for Warriors legend Eric Paschall for the game’s final minutes. It was an offense-defense substitution from Quin Snyder, but Snyder didn’t want to use his last timeout to get the Stifle Tower back in the game. This rarely happens in the NBA, but after Looney’s and-one, there were no stoppages of play - no timeouts, no fouls, no balls out of bounds. The final “hundred seconds of crunch time,” as Bob Fitzgerald says, took exactly 100 real-time seconds.
Bogdanovic led the Jazz with 21 points, 15 of them in the first half, while a red-hot Rudy Gay scored 16 points off the bench, on just eight shots. Mike Conley was bottled up, with nine points and an uncharacteristic four turnovers, one big one down the stretch. Backup point Trent Forrest matched Conley’s nine points, and added four steals in 19 minutes.
Poole looked confident all night, never more than when he dropped Jordan Clarkson on a dribble move in the second quarter. Clarkson fell backwards five feet and Poole calmly hit a wide-open three. Meanwhile, the bench exploded in Bazemoreian celebration, wiping the ground as if to clean up the skid of Clarkson’s sweaty body. Clarkson got immediately pulled from the game but went on to play 13 minutes in the second half, a gutty performance for someone whose ankles were broken so badly by Poole.
On a night where Curry couldn’t find the hoop, Poole also did an excellent Steph impression when he got isolated onto Rudy Gobert, drawing the big man away from the paint before stepping back and nailing the jumper over him.
Gary Payton II had another strong defensive performance on the bench. In the third, he stole the ball on two consecutive possessions and took the ball in for layups, which gave the Warriors their biggest lead of the night, 79-66. The only thing missing was a dunk, but look, getting steals is tiring!
He also proved that his defensive skills extend to espionage, as he also quietly infiltrated the Jazz huddle late in the game.
At that point, it looked like the Warriors might run away with the game, and even after a pair of Curry misses and a pair of Jazz threes, Golden State still led 83-75 going in the final quarter. And then they stopped scoring.
For a five-minute stretch, the Warriors went scoreless, missing four shots and turning the ball over three times. Meanwhile Ruby Gobert kept rebounding and dunking, while his teammates remembered how to shoot. Overall, it was a 14-0 run spanning the quarters, and Utah led 86-83. Unfortunately for them, they’d already scored 65% of their points for the quarter, and there were eight-and-a-half minutes to go.
Then Andrew Wiggins went to work. He blocked Rudy Gay at one end, then drove directly into Gobert for a layup at the other. After his hesitation move froze Royce O’Neale, Maple Jordan buried a jumper to give the Warriors a three-point lead.
Utah eventually tied it up, after Damion Lee sandwiched a missed three between two turnovers, and former Warriors Summer League legend Joe Ingles scored off a nice feed from Gobert. Poole’s jumper then gave the Warriors a two-point lead, before both teams traded bricked threes and shot clock violations until Looney’s heroics.
It’s the Warriors’ fourth straight win over the Jazz, who are still missing All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. They closed out 2021 on a six-game win streak, but the Warriors broke their streak, and perhaps their spirits, as the Jazz are now 4-8 in January, and have dropped to 4th place in the Western Conference. They should have Mitchell back soon, but it’s been a rough stretch, highlighted by Gobert calling out his teammates (specifically Mitchell) for his lack of defensive effort.
It’s also fitting that the key on Tom Tolbert Night would be a scrappy role player hustling his way to an offensive rebound. Though the Chase Center didn’t accept Kerr’s suggestion that all the fans should get a free beer to honor the short-time Warriors and long-time broadcaster. The Warriors did their own Tolbert tribute, shooting 31% from three, almost exactly matching Mr. T’s career 30% mark.
The Warriors were without Klay Thompson, who was a last-minute scratch after feeling knee soreness during warmups.
“Nothing too concerning” is usually cause for concern https://t.co/ShP2MWLB3d— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) January 24, 2022
Hopefully he’s fine, and there’s no real reason for alarm. Except for the similarity to how the team has talked about James Wiseman all year, who’s still yet to make an appearance. As of now, Klay is still on track to start Tuesday’s game against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Wiseman and Draymond Green are out indefinitely.