Midway through the first half, Gordon Hayward sliced down the lane seemingly by himself until Draymond Green’s hands swiped the ball away leading to a Kevin Durant dunk the other way. Apoplectic at his own mistake, Hayward rolled his eyes and searched the sky for answers. After a breakout performance against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Utah Jazz’s best offensive threat was grinded into a middling weapon by the Golden State Warriors’ brigade of lockdown wings. In a 106-94 final score that never felt that close, the Jazz got to see up close just how quickly their season has shifted from joy to impending doom.
Behind one of the best crowds of the season lathered up from the “We Believe” festivities, the Warriors lurched to a 9-0 start and never looked back. Despite some rust exhibited by Kevin Durant’s turnover and missed open layup to start the game, the Warriors slowly but surely paced themselves ahead of a sleepy and overmatched Jazz unit both offensively and defensively.
With the Warriors able to single-cover Hayward and Joe Johnson with Draymond, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Shaun Livingston, it allowed the Warriors to do as they please. Against a Jazz offensive scheme that relies on a motion offense, the switching style and versatility of the Warriors negated all ideas and creativity. With their two best playmakers shut off, the Jazz never made GSW sweat.
Despite some good shooters, there was never a break in the GSW defensive system that made their switches and communication go array. On the defensive side, this was never more in full form than when David West effectively locked up George Hill on a switch, one-on-one, at the top of the key.
On the other end, the 3PT shooting felt the full brunt of the week off. Just 7-29 from the field, Durant, Steph, and Klay all struggled to shoot. Iguodala capped that by going 0-6 from 3, and 0 fer for the entire postseason. But there was more than enough to flummox the Jazz on talent alone. Draymond got to the rim and nailed two more 3s, ending a finish with a left-hand mock straight to the Jazz bench. And despite his struggles from 3, Steph still dropped 22 points on 11 shots, and taught Rudy Gobert how to waltz on an NBA court in the middle of a postseason game.
The crowd was abuzz, the Utah Jazz played hard and shot 29 3s in a game that was to their pace a majority of the way, and at the end of the day a C-level Warriors effort was enough for an easy double-digit victory. They’re forever searching for peak form, for the first 12 minutes in Game 4 against the Blazers.
What’s becoming more and more obvious to the rest of the league is that they don’t need to come near to that level of play to beat teams like the Utah Jazz.