Despite cold start, Warriors dominate Jazz with smothering defense

Despite cold start, Warriors dominate Jazz with smothering defense

OAKLAND – Many are the nights when Draymond Green stands out from his teammates for his searing intensity, a wasp among butterflies flitting about lofting picturesque jump shots.

Green was his usual predatory self on Tuesday night, chasing everything in sight, bothering the Utah Jazz at every turn, denying them even the slightest comfort. This time, though, he had plenty of company.

The Warriors defended the Jazz into submission, jumping on them from the opening tip and not backing off until the final buzzer of a 104-74 rout at Oracle Arena.

“It was really one of my favorite games of the year for us,” coach Steve Kerr said, “because I know Utah was shorthanded, but they are a tough team, physical and we couldn’t buy a shot to start the game.”

Neither team could find the bucket early. The Warriors missed their first six shots and 11 of their first 12. Utah missed its first six shots and 12 of its first 13. The Warriors shot 26.9 percent in the first quarter, taking a 19-15 lead on the Jazz, who shot 21.7 percent.

“This is an ugly game,” Green thought at the time.

It stayed ugly only for the Jazz. The Warriors took a double-digit lead (39-27) with 3:57 left in the half and never lost it. They went into halftime up 55-33 and never were threatened in the second half.

“Just staying solid trying to defend our foul line, keep them in front of us,” said Stephen Curry, who finished with a game-high 25 points. “Then use our hands for deflections when they got in the paint. We did a good job in the first half of drawing them into a crowd and trying to make them make tough baskets and just flying around everywhere. With everybody being on string defensively, it was fun to play that kind of style.”

It didn’t matter that the Warriors (25-4) shot only 44.4 percent. Not when they were superior in rebounding (50-44) and forcing 23 Utah turnovers – the most the Jazz have committed in any game this season and also the most the Warriors have forced.

With Kevin Durant holding Utah’s leading scorer Gordon Hayward to six points on 2-of-10 shooting, the starting lineup scored a total of 25 points, 11 of which were supplied by 7-foot-1 center Rudy Gobert.

“That’s incredible,” Green said.

Never in the history of the Warriors-Jazz series, covering 176 games, has Utah been limited to so few points.

“We did it as a team,” said Durant, who scored 22 points in 25 minutes. “Our defense is getting better. We had great shots all night, to be honest, and we missed shots that we normally make.

“But they were physical. We have to give them credit, that’s what they do. They rely on being physical and tough, weighing you down. We stayed the course to get stops and rebounds. We had to find some easy baskets, transitions out there, a couple layups, 3s, that’s what got us going out there. We just kept going from there. We just stayed consistent on the defensive end.”

This is becoming a trend. The Warriors have held each of their last three opponents to fewer than 90 points, the first such streak since November 2013.

“It gives us a lot of confidence that no matter how we’re shooting, we always have a chance to open up the game at some point because our defense is allowing us to impose our will defensively,” Curry said. “If we keep a team under 80, I like our chances to win pretty much every night.”

If there was a particularly encouraging sign, aside from the overall defensive effort, it was that the Warriors didn’t let their horrid start on offense affect their defense. They only got edgier, every one of them, as if taking cues from Green.


Hopeful night at Oracle turns solemn after Curry sprains left MCL

Hopeful night at Oracle turns solemn after Curry sprains left MCL

OAKLAND -- The words came dribbling out slowly, ruefully and with more than a trace of despair.

JaVale McGee, the 7-foot accidental villain, could barely speak about his role Friday night in the moment that left the Warriors pleading for mercy while their fans were screaming at the sky.

Stephen Curry, returning to the lineup after a six-game absence due to a right ankle sprain, lasted 25 minutes before sustaining another injury, this one a sprain to his left MCL. The two-time MVP will undergo an MRI test Saturday.

“I pray to God,” McGee said, “that nothing’s wrong with him.”

The injury occurred with 3:09 left in the third quarter. After biting on a pump fake by Atlanta forward Mike Muscala, McGee wound up tumbling backward, with his 270 pounds landing directly at the front Curry legs. Curry immediately started limping away, with the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena gasping in horror.

“I was trying to block a shot,” McGee said beneath a vacant stare, “and I ran into him.”

That’s the kind of month it has been for the Warriors. All four of their All-Stars have been knocked out of action by an array of injuries.

Curry went down March 8 after tweaking his surgically repaired right ankle. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were injured March 11 at Minnesota, Durant sustaining a rib cartilage injury after taking a elbow from 7-foot Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and Thompson spraining his right thumb after making contact with Minnesota point guard Jeff Teague.

Draymond Green began the next week as the team’s only healthy All-Star, a distinction that lasted eight days before he was struck down with a pelvic contusion Monday night in San Antonio.

“It’s like a juju or something on us,” McGee said. “I’ve never been part of a team where everybody just got injured, especially the starters. It’s kind of scary to tell the truth.”

Durant, Thompson and Green were unavailable Friday night, which is why Curry’s return was so encouraging. After a 2-point first quarter during which he went 1-of-6 from the floor, Curry found his stroke and over his next 16 minutes scored 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

Then came the most frightening moment of the night, throwing a massive damper on a 106-94 victory.

“I assumed it was his ankle when he came out hobbling and I found it was his knee,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We will see what the MRI says tomorrow.

“There is not a whole lot we can do or predict. It’s kind of a strange, cruel twist of fate. He rehabs his ankle for the last couple of weeks and gets that strong and the knee goes. We’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed.”

The Warriors came out of the All-Star break fairly healthy and ready to make a run at the No. 1 overall seed. They’ve achieved it in each of the last three seasons, coming away with two championships.

Hopes of getting there this season have disappeared under a pile of injuries, all of them coming over the last 16 days. As of late Friday night, there was no knowing how serious Curry’s injury is, or how long he might be out.

What’s known is that it was another in a succession of frightful moments.

“It’s a little somber in there,” Kerr said of the locker room. “Everybody feels for Steph. But it’s more a case of just keep going and keep pushing forward. We’ll come into tomorrow, short practice and get ready for Utah.”

That’s at the request of the schedule. That’s a dose of NBA reality on a grim night.

McGee didn’t seem ready for that. He was feeling awful about the entire episode.

“I can’t describe it,” he said of the play that followed everyone into the night. “Everybody has a TV. I fell into him and . . . I know y’all (reporters) don’t think I’m standing here like, ‘Yes, I fell into him.’

“That’s a star player. Of course, we don’t want him to be injured, especially after he came back. So I feel very bad for the fact that I was a part of that.”

McGee said he hopes Curry is out no more than a couple games.

The Warriors would be ever so pleased if it’s a couple weeks. They want to be whole for the postseason,, the only season by which they will be measured and a season that, on this night, nobody was of a mood to visualize.

Curry limps to locker room with left MCL sprain, does not return vs Hawks

Curry limps to locker room with left MCL sprain, does not return vs Hawks

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry lasted 25 minutes Friday night before limping out of another game.

He was diagnosed with a sprained left MCL and did not return after sustaining the injury.

Curry came up limping after center JaVale McGee, leaping for a rebound, tumbled backward into his lower legs with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter of the Warriors-Hawks game at Oracle Arena.

Immediately, the sellout crowd let out a collective groan.

Curry, his face a mask of dejection, headed for the bench, where he was examined by Warriors physical performance specialist Chelsea Lane. The two then headed into the locker room.

Curry scored a team-high 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before leaving the game. This was his first appearance since March 8, when he tweaked his surgically repaired right ankle, causing him to miss six games.

Curry has missed 21 of the team’s 71 games. He will undergo an MRI on Saturday, and his status beyond that is yet to be determined. 

This story is being updated.