After years of defensive futility, it’s really quite astonishing just how much of a 180 the Golden State Warriors have done this season. As one of only four teams in the NBA with a defensive efficiency under 100, Golden State has used defense to propel itself into a playoff position, and in the waning moments of the NBA regular season, the Warriors will look to cement their spot.
Next up for the Dubs will be the Utah Jazz, who’ll have to deal with a Warriors team looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since mid-March.
On Friday, the Warriors rebounded from a tough loss to the San Antonio Spurs by holding the Sacramento Kings to 69 points in a laughably easy victory. Now, they’ll look to continue that momentum as they face the Jazz at home on Sunday night.
The Jazz will roll into ORACLE Arena with the worst record in the West, while Golden State is fighting for its playoff life. With every game essentially a must-win, the Warriors can’t afford to rest their laurels this time around. That’s especially true when considering the result of these two teams’ Jan. 31 matchup.
Even though the gap between the two teams might seem extreme, the Dubs only survived that last meeting because of Steph Curry’s 43 points. Add David Lee’s questionable status to the mix and Andrew Bogut’s absence, and this matchup certainly has the makings of a trap game.
Utah Jazz (24-52) Projected Lineup:
PG: Trey Burke
SG: Gordon Hayward
SF: Richard Jefferson
PF: Marvin Williams
C: Derrick Favors
Key Bench Players: Enes Kanter, Alec Burks
Keys to a Warriors Victory:
Contain Gordon Hayward
One of the lone bright spots on the Jazz, Hayward has put up solid numbers this season, and when Utah wins, it’s often because of their shooting guard.
The Warriors have excellent perimeter defenders, which means Hayward will likely have to earn his points inside. Given Andrew Bogut’s absence, it’ll be up to the other interior defenders (Jermaine O’Neal, Marreese Speights, Draymond Green) to step up and deny Hayward, the Jazz’s most significant scoring threat, at the rim.
Avoid Growing Complacent
It’s easy to imagine the Warriors jumping out to a big lead to start the game, but holding it is another matter. When the starters come out, it’ll be important for the Dubs to prevent the Jazz from keeping it close until the end.
As often happens in the NBA, the worse team often hangs with the better team until the end, giving the former a shot to jump ahead in the waning minutes of the game.
Against the Kings, the Warriors jumped out to a huge lead and never let up. They’ll look to do the same again on Sunday night.
6:00 PM PST, April 6, 2014
ORACLE Arena, Oakland, CA
TV: CSN Bay Area
Radio: KNBR 680 AM