May 6, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) tries to save the ball from going out of bounds during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game three of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
The Utah Jazz returned home with intentions of making up their series defecit, but lost to the Golden State Warriors in Game 3. Why weren’t they able to take home the win?
After dropping the first two games of their second round playoff series on the road, the Utah Jazz knew they’d have to compete much harder in Game 3 to have a shot at victory.
Compete hard they did, but it was ultimately not enough, as they fell to the Golden State Warriors by a score of 102-91 that was really much closer than that for much of the contest.
Having never trailed for the first two games of the series, the Warriors again jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter, leading 27-17 after 12 minutes of action.
However, the Jazz were able to close the deficit in the second period, even taking their first lead of the series at 48-47 and holding that advantage at halftime.
The score remained close throughout the third, with Utah down two points to start the last quarter. However, it was all Golden State from that point on, as they went on a 17-5 run over the game’s last four minutes.
Gordon Hayward led the Jazz in scoring with 29 points, while Kevin Durant enjoyed a career night for the opposing side in putting up 38. Stephen Curry and Rudy Gobert were the only others to hit 20 points in a game that was low-scoring by Golden State’s standards.
Down 3-0, the Jazz’s chances of winning the series look bleak, but before moving forward, let’s review what transpired in Game 3 to result in the loss.
May 6, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) shoots the ball over Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) during the second quarter in game three of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Can’t Stop KD
The Jazz did well holding the Warriors’ dynamic backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in check for most of the game. Curry got hot later in the second half, but he and his partner still combined to go just 7-of-29 from the field.
However, even if you stop two of the best shooters in NBA history, the Warriors still have one of the league’s most efficient scorers to go to in Kevin Durant.
Go to him they did, as the Warriors repeatedly posted Durant up on switches, gave him isolation possessions at the top of the key, or provided ball screens for him to rise and fire off of.
Gordon Hayward is a stout 6’8″ and plays almost perfect defense in the clip below, but he has little effect against the nearly seven-foot Durant when the latter’s shot is falling.
KD was 15-of-26 on the night despite many of his shots being contested and relatively low-percentage. Playing heavy minutes at power forward, he also finished with 13 rebounds and was a game-high +18.
The highlight of his performance was a ridiculous fadeaway over near-perfect defense from Hayward that served as the nail in the Jazz’s coffin, which Durant punctuated with a Michael Jordan-esque shrug.
The Jazz have been matching up Hayward with Durant, but given the results, don’t be surprised if they try out Joe Ingles on him next game just as a change of pace.
Any other scheme, such as sending more help his way, would prove disastrous against a Warriors lineup that gives defenses enough fits hitting tough looks on jump shots.
May 6, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) keeps the ball away from Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the fourth quarter in game three of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
A Little Help, Please
Gordon Hayward has been fantastic as the Jazz’s main option all playoffs, averaging 27 points per game against the Los Angeles Clippers and going for 33 and 29 points in his last two contests versus Golden State.
Although he did shoot a subpar 7-of-18 from the field, Hayward was able to do most of his damage from the free throw line, which has been a strength for him all year, going 13-of-14 on the night.
However, after accounting for Rudy Gobert’s 21 points, the rest of the Jazz went just 16-for-51 from the field and scored 41 total points. Utah had just 10 points come from their bench, with Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson combining to make just four out of their 20 attempts.
Shelvin Mack, who started at point guard in place of the injured George Hill, had the ball in his hands all too much as the shot clock ran down as a result of him being one of the few players on the floor who could even generate a shot attempt, never mind its quality.
Wing scoring was a large problem for the Jazz in their series against the Clippers, and it looks like it will continue to be so here against the Warriors’ stable of quality perimeter defenders.
With the slower pace they prefer to play at, Utah absolutely needs to shoot at a higher rate from the field than the 39 percent performance they put up in Game 3. If the role players can’t get it going, they’ll have no shot against a higher-powered Golden State offense.
May 6, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and Utah Jazz guard Shelvin Mack (8) slap hands during the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game three of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Going to Gobert
The Warriors’ strength resides in their guards and wings, and outside of using Draymond Green as a short-term wrecking ball, none of their centers tend to inspire fear in the hearts of opponents.
The Jazz have a distinct advantage at the position, with Rudy Gobert having blossomed into an All-NBA level talent this season.