Banged-up Jazz tasked with trying to slow hot Warriors
SALT LAKE CITY -- Slowing down Golden State's offense is a bit like trying to move a mountain with bare hands. The Warriors are scorching one defense after another with their ability to relentlessly score from anywhere on the floor.
Golden State (19-3) is averaging 130.5 points per game in the month of December. The Warriors have won their last two games by an average of 27.3 points, with the latest result being a 115-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
Their big three of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have been virtually unstoppable over the past four contests. Thompson is averaging 31.3 points on 48.9 percent shooting. Curry is scoring 22.8 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting and dishing out 6.0 assists. Durant is chipping in 23.8 points on 47.0 percent shooting and collecting 8.3 rebounds.
This sort of offensive efficiency is no fluke. Golden State leads the NBA in field-goal percentage (.502) and is the only team in the league shooting above 50 percent. The Warriors are also league leaders in assists (32.0) and scoring (120.0).
It's reached a point where Golden State almost demands perfection and a 115-point outing against the Clippers is a bit of a disappointment.
"Honestly, I don't think we played well offensively tonight," Draymond Green said after Thursday's game. "We missed a lot of shots that we normally make. The flow wasn't really there. But the most important thing is we defended and didn't turn the ball over. And when you don't turn the ball over and you defend, you give yourself a chance to win every game."
Dealing with such a potent offense will be challenging even for one the NBA's best defensive teams. The Utah Jazz are allowing just 95.5 points per game this season and have given up only 93.0 points per contest in 11 home contests.
Containing Golden State at that level will be nearly impossible for Utah, which has just 11 available players for Thursday. George Hill (sprained toe), Rodney Hood (hamstring strain), Derrick Favors (knee contusion) and Alec Burks (ankle rehabilitation) will not play against the Warriors.
Gordon Hayward is also banged up after injuring the same finger he fractured during the preseason in Tuesday's 112-105 win over Phoenix. Hayward left during the third quarter to get the finger examined and returned for the fourth quarter. His finger was bruised and swollen after the game but, fortunately for Utah, not broken.
"It was stinging, so I wanted to make sure everything was fine before I came back," Hayward said. "Sometimes, you just have to let pain dissipate a little bit. We put some spray on it and re-wrapped it. It's not broken. We X-rayed it and it's fine."
A troubling trend has emerged for the Jazz over their last three games. In each game, Utah has surrendered a double-digit lead during the fourth quarter and held on in the final minutes for a victory.
Fourth-quarter sluggishness was really pronounced against the Suns. The Jazz scored just nine points over the first 10 minutes of the quarter and relaxed on defense, allowing Phoenix to rally from a 19-point deficit and tie the game at 103-103 with 3:07 remaining.
"I don't think we're playing our best defense at all," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "The ball has gotten in the paint too much. We've been playing teams that are just driving the ball. In some respects, when Rudy is protecting the rim, that's good. But if you look at the lineups we've had, we haven't had a lot of quickness on the floor. Guys got to be more disciplined."
Golden State has dominated the series with Utah in recent seasons. The Warriors have won five straight and 11 of the last 12 against the Jazz. Utah's lone win in that stretch was a 110-100 home victory on Jan. 30, 2015.