SALT LAKE CITY — The Golden State Warriors are one win away from reaching the Western Conference finals for a third consecutive season, and they have faced only token opposition in getting to this point.
Utah is the latest team searching for answers on how to slow down Golden State’s offense. The Warriors rallied to beat the Jazz 102-91 on Saturday, taking a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven West semifinal series.
Golden State will have a chance to close out the series with a victory in Game 4 on Monday at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Warriors have won a franchise-best seven straight postseason games to this point.
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For a while, it appeared that Utah could finally solve the offensive puzzle that Golden State creates for opposing defenses. The Jazz shut down Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry for much of the Saturday game. They limited the duo to a combined 7-of-29 shooting from the field — including just 3-of-15 from 3-point range.
Enter Kevin Durant. The former NBA Most Valuable Player poured in 38 points on 15-of-26 shooting and collected 13 rebounds. He earned his second consecutive double-double against Utah and gave Golden State enough of a boost to win for the 22nd time in the team’s past 23 games dating back to the regular season.
“Whatever happened in the game was going to happen,” Durant said. “I just let my work take over and let my instincts take over. I made a few shots there.”
That is the dilemma facing the Warriors’ opponents. Shut down one component of Golden State’s offense and another component instantly kicks into overdrive. Some games it is Durant. Others it is Curry, Thompson or Draymond Green.
Utah hasn’t been able to match that arsenal in the first three games. The Jazz got the usual major contributions from Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert in Game 3. Hayward totaled 29 points while Gobert chipped in 21 points and 15 rebounds.
That duo didn’t get much help from the second unit. Utah’s bench was limited to 10 points and went a combined 4 of 22 from the floor.
It allowed the Warriors to seize momentum in the fourth quarter. Durant and Curry combined for 22 of Golden State’s final 24 points to bury the Jazz for good.
“I think the problem we had was we stopped moving the ball,” Gobert said. “We started having some tougher shots, and they got going in transition. Steph got going and KD got going. They’re very tough to guard.”
The Warriors made things much easier on themselves by playing smart basketball on both ends throughout the second half. They did not commit a turnover after halftime and finished with seven overall. Golden State also limited the Jazz to just 41 points during the final two quarters.
It counteracted Utah’s effectiveness in limiting its own turnovers and taking away Golden State’s chances for transition baskets for much of the game. It also took the boisterous Jazz fans out of the game down the stretch.
“Give our guys credit,” Golden State acting coach Mike Brown said. “They stayed poised. They could have caved at any time, especially in the third when Utah went on a run. But they just stayed with it. There was no panic involved or anything like that, especially during timeouts in the huddle.”