Programming note: Warriors-Jazz Game 1 coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm with Warriors Playoff Central on NBC Sports Bay Area Plus, and streaming live right here.
UPDATE (5:45pm on Tuesday): Matt Barnes (right ankle/foot sprain) is available to play in Game 1 against the Jazz, interim head coach Mike Brown announced about two hours before tip-off. An hour later, the Warriors announced that Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain and hand contusion) is also available to play.
OAKLAND -- Ten years after the “We Believe” Warriors were ousted from the playoffs by the Jazz, today’s Warriors have an opportunity to even the score.
It will be a distinct clash of styles when the teams meet Tuesday night at Oracle Arena for Game 1 of this Western Conference Semifinals series. The Warriors play at the fourth fastest pace in the NBA, while Utah is dead last in that category.
Utah could gain an edge entering Game 1 insofar as it is two days removed from a seven-game series, while the Warriors are coming off an eight-day layoff and initially could show signs of rust.
Warriors by 13
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Kevin Durant vs. Gordon Hayward: Though shooting guard Klay Thompson will be primary defender on Hayward, the Durant-Hayward dynamic at small forward is intriguing. The Warriors can go after Utah’s lone All-Star with waves of defenders, including Durant, who is a solid defender. Containing Hayward is key, as the Jazz are 37-10 when he scores at least 20 points. On the other side, neither Hayward nor Joe Ingles nor any of their teammates stand much chance of containing Durant.
Warriors: F Matt Barnes (R foot bone bruise) is listed as probable. G Shaun Livingston (R finger sprain/hand contusion) is listed as questionable. F Kevon Looney (L hip strain) is listed as out.
Jazz: F Derrick Favors (back soreness) is listed as questionable. G Alec Burks (L knee recovery) is listed as out.
ROAD TO THE SERIES:
The Warriors finished the regular season with the league’s best record (67-15) and swept Portland in the first round.
The Jazz (51-31) finished with the No. 5 seed and in the first round eliminated the Clippers in seven games.
The teams met three times in the regular season, with the Warriors winning the first two games: 106-99 on Dec. 8 in Utah and 104-74 on Dec. 20 at Oracle Arena. The Jazz posted a 105-99 victory on April 10 at Oracle. The Warriors have won 13 of the last 15 meetings overall.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
THE PACE GAME: With each team attempting to impose its style on the other, discipline will be key. The Jazz will try to lull the Warriors to sleep, a strategy that has had mixed success at best. The Warriors will try to use high-energy defense to disrupt Utah in hopes of forcing the Jazz to feel they have to rush.
THE GOBERT FACTOR: Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, is a fabulous shot-blocker (led the league) and rebounder (finished fourth). The Warriors are fully aware he’s playing on a tender left ankle, and that limitation could prompt him to reach and leave him vulnerable to committing fouls.
THE POINT MEN: Stephen Curry is the reigning league MVP, and George Hill is as valuable to the Jazz as anyone on their roster. Hill is an underrated scorer, but when he produces well it generally results in a victory. Curry started to heat up late in the first round. If he picks up where he left off, the Warriors gain a decided edge.