Warriors quash any hope of a Jazz upset in a Game 1 blowout

OAKLAND, Calif. -- About 90 minutes before Game 1, Jazz coach Quin Snyder explained what needs to happen for his team to pull off the upset of the century over the Warriors. He did so with an overtly obvious statement.

"Are we going to be good or not good?" he said. "Because they're going to be good."

On Thursday night, Utah was not good and Golden State was good. As a result, the Steve Kerr-less Warriors took Game 1, 106-94. The game wasn't as close as the final scoreline suggests, in part because the Warriors didn't need to play their starters for most of the fourth quarter.

Stephen Curry led the way with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Kevin Durant and Draymond Green each scored 17, Klay Thompson dumped in 15 and Zaza Pachulia even hit double figures with 10 points. The Warriors assisted on 32 of their 40 made shots. They turned the ball over just seven times compared to the Jazz's 13 giveaways, which led to 20 Golden State points.

"We feel like we have enough scoring power that if we lock in defensively and just do our job and win the possession game, we can probably outscore most of our opponents," acting Warriors coach Mike Brown said.
That seems like a sound strategy for a team composed of sharpshooters.

Meanwhile, Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson --  two scorers who need to have monster games if the Jazz have any chance to keep the series close -- combined for 23 points on 8-of-25 shooting. Rudy Gobert was Utah's leading scorer with 13 points.

At the risk of becoming a prisoner of the moment, at the risk of jumping to conclusions after the first game of a best-of-seven series, and at the risk of looking stupid in a couple weeks -- well, more stupid than I usually look -- the Jazz don't have a chance in this series. That's not to say they can't take a game (maybe two if the breaks fall their way), but their odds to shock the Warriors like the "We Believe" team shocked the Mavericks a decade ago are situated somewhere around zero. Unless the Warriors decide to stay in Los Angeles (for the nightlife, of course) for Games 3 and 4, they're not going to be upended by the Jazz.

And that's not the Jazz's fault. They just don't have the weapons to keep up with a super team. There's a reason why pretty much every basketball pundit alive predicted a Warriors-Cavaliers finals matchup. There probably isn't a team in the West that can beat a healthy Warriors team in a seven-game series. It makes sense that the only team with a realistic shot at taking down the Warriors is the one that has LeBron James on its roster.

The Warriors didn't even reach their peak Tuesday and they still led comfortably the entire way. Throughout the first half, the Jazz did their best to muck up and slow down the game. Some thought the Jazz would give the Warriors issues due to their size and length. If they could control the pace, the thinking went, they could bother the Warriors and hang around. And if the game came down to a few possessions in the fourth quarter, why couldn't Iso Joe do to the Warriors what he did to the Clippers?

But what happens when the Warriors' defense is so suffocating that they brawl right back at you? What happens when the Warriors force you to play at their tempo?

What happens is the Warriors win and they win big.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots a layup against the Utah Jazz during the second half in Game 1 of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. (Photo: Pool Photo, USAT)

Five takeaways from Warriors' Game 1 win over Jazz

The Jazz quickly closed the gap to seven in the third quarter, but within a minute, they were staring back up at a 14-point deficit. Give the Jazz credit, though, because they hung in there when it looked like it could get ugly at multiple points. They entered the fourth quarter down 11, which means they actually outscored the Warriors in the third quarter. That's not an easy feat considering the Warriors are the best third-quarter team in the league, as Blazers coach Terry Stotts pointed out at multiple points during the Warriors' first-round sweep.

The Warriors' bench -- the same lineup that killed the Jazz in the second quarter -- put the game away in the fourth. Curry didn't even need to play in the final 12 minutes. On a night that Oracle Arena celebrated the "We Believe" team, the Warriors found garbage time minutes for Matt Barnes. The majority of fans were long gone by the time the final buzzer sounded.

A series obviously isn't decided after one game. Teams make adjustments -- good teams make the right ones like the Warriors did in the 2015 Finals -- and the series shifts. But I'm just not sure what adjustments Snyder can make.

Limiting turnovers would help, of course, but that's easier said than done. When Warriors' defense is locked in, it's even more remarkable to observe than their high-flying offense. And when they're locked in on defense, they tend to elevate on offense, because they're the ones dictating the pace. I can't tell you how many times Kerr, over the course of the season, talked about how stops tend to lead to made shots.

"It all starts with the defensive side of the ball," Durant said. "You get stops and rebounds, you can run out. But if we're taking the ball out every time, it's hard for us to get into a rhythm in our transition game."
Truth be told, there isn't really any single adjustment that can swing the series. And what happens when the Warriors improve?

The Warriors shot 7-of-29 from deep. Andre Iguodala missed at least five wide-open shots from behind the arc. Even Curry connected on just one 3, as he scored most of his points on drives and free throws. Curry is going to make more 3s in future games. Like winter, a storm of Golden State 3s is coming.
"I think both teams can shoot better," Snyder said.

That's probably not a good thing for the Jazz.

Snyder's pregame quote seemed like an overtly obvious statement at the time, but the thing is, it wasn't completely accurate. Even if the Jazz are good they still won't be able to win if the Warriors are good, too. So, let's amend Snyder's assessment: The Jazz will win only if they're good and the Warriors are not good.
The only problem? The Warriors are almost never not good.

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