Warriors wary of letdown vs. Jazz
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors will seek to avoid a letdown following their Christmas Day win over Cleveland — like the one they had before the showdown — when they continue a seven-game homestand against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
The Warriors (27-7) responded to a humbling 96-81 home loss to Denver on Saturday night with a 99-92 victory over the Cavaliers on Monday in a nationally televised rematch of last June’s NBA Finals.
Klay Thompson hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1:33 remaining and Kevin Durant denied LeBron James twice on subsequent drives to the hoop, enabling the Warriors to win for the 12th time in their last 13 games.
The NBA office issued a statement Tuesday saying that Durant actually fouled James a total of three times on the two key plays down the stretch.
Two fouls were detected on a James driving layup that Durant blocked with 24.5 seconds remaining and the Warriors up three. The ball went out of bounds and was awarded to Golden State after a video review.
Durant noted after the game that his Twitter account was blowing up with reaction to the play. Only some sided with him.
“It felt clean,” he said of the block. “The same dudes that are arguing on Twitter are probably at (the local gym) saying that wasn’t a foul. They’ve been in a position before, but not on Christmas at Oracle Arena.”
As was the case with Denver last week, the Warriors will be seeing a team Wednesday that will be playing its second game in two nights. The Jazz got thumped 107-83 at suddenly hot Denver on Tuesday night.
Utah will bring one of the league’s worst road records (3-14) to Oakland, as well as a run of nine losses in its last 10 visits to Oracle Arena.
That 1-9 stretch includes 12- and 11-point defeats at the hands of the Warriors in Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference semifinals last May. Golden State went on to sweep the series 4-0 en route to the NBA title.
To make matters worse, the Jazz will return to Oakland for the first time this season without their two most productive players from the playoff series, having lost guard Gordon Hayward to Boston in free agency and center Rudy Gobert recently to a bruised left knee.
On the other hand, the Warriors will be seeing impressive rookie Donovan Mitchell for the first time.
The 13th overall pick of the 2017 draft, the 21-year-old Mitchell was limited to 13 points in 33 minutes against the Nuggets.
His scoring average dropped to 17.9, and he now finds himself looking up at the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma (18.1) atop the list of rookie scoring leaders this season.
Golden State has seen plenty of Kuzma already. After missing the first Warriors-Lakers matchup of the season with an injury, the 22-year-old had 25 points in an overtime home loss to Golden State, before running up 27 points and 14 rebounds when Los Angeles took the Warriors to the gun before losing by seven last Thursday in Oakland.
Coincidentally, while Mitchell was starring at Louisville last season, Kuzma was putting on a show for Salt Lake City basketball fans as a member of the University of Utah squad.
Mitchell and Kuzma already have built a friendly rivalry.
“Social media the way it is, it’s hard not to see what certain people are doing,” Mitchell noted. “Especially a guy like him who’s been killing it in L.A. You see that all the time. I tell him all the time I’m proud of him. He’s just gotta keep it up.”
The Warriors will again be without Stephen Curry, who has missed the last nine games with a sprained ankle. The club issued a report Tuesday that said he was making progress and would be re-evaluated Friday.
It’s possible he could return for Friday’s home game against Charlotte.