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.