NBA Gameday: Series turns to Utah as Warriors seek critical Game 3 win

NBA Gameday: Series turns to Utah as Warriors seek critical Game 3 win

SALT LAKE CITY -- It’s often stated that Game 3 is the most important in a seven-game series, regardless of sport. The Warriors and Jazz are at that point.

Up 2-0 in this Western Conference semifinal series, the Warriors look to take a commanding 3-0 lead Saturday when the teams gather at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:35 p.m. Pacific.

The Jazz, who lost each of the first two games by double-digit margins, will try to utilize the advantages of home. Only five NBA teams were better at home in the regular season than Utah, which was 29-12.


Warriors by 6.5


Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant vs. Gordon Hayward: Hayward bounced back from a poor Game 1 to produce a strong Game 2, scoring a game-high 33 points. He benefitted from Warriors complacency. That’s something Andre Iguodala and Thompson, in particular, vow to fix. They’ll try to contain Hayward while also exploiting his defense. Durant seems ready for a breakout game.


Warriors: F Draymond Green (L knee tweak) did not practice Friday but is available to play. F Kevon Looney (L hip strain) is listed as out.

Jazz: G George Hill (L big toe sprain) was ruled out 90 minutes before tip-off. G Alec Burks (L knee recovery) is listed as out.


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 Warriors posted wins in Games 1 and 2. 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 15 of the last 17 meetings overall.


THE CROWD EFFECT: Jazz crowds are as notorious for subjecting opponents to abuse as they are for supporting their team. Given their chatter disparaging the relatively sparse local nightlife, the Warriors expect the worst. They’ve expressed the importance of a fast start in hopes of quieting the boisterous fan base.

THE PACE GAME: The Warriors in the first two games did a solid job of pushing tempo, dragging the Jazz into a faster pace. Aware that an uptempo game benefits them, the Warriors will continue that approach. They’ll want to be more careful with the ball than they were in Game 2, when they committed 17 turnovers.

THE DRAYMOND EFFECT: Draymond Green has been impactful at both ends in the Games 1 and 2, raining 3-pointers and piling up blocks and steals. He tweaked his knee late in Game 2, so his agility may be compromised. He says he’ll be fine. The Warriors expect him to play. His effectiveness is in question until he proves it’s not.

Steph Curry knows it comes with risk, but he's not going to change the way he plays


Steph Curry knows it comes with risk, but he's not going to change the way he plays

OAKLAND -- When he returns to the Warriors, likely on Friday, Stephen Curry will alter nothing about his game despite coming off a four-month period during which his surgically repaired right ankle endured multiple aggravations.

He’ll be the same Curry that fans have come to know, diving into passing lanes on defense while firing up 3-pointers and darting in and out of paint traffic on offense.

It’s the only way he knows how to play, and he’s played long enough to accept that it comes with risk.

“When I wake up in the morning I’ll know the difference between my right (ankle) and my left,” Curry said Thursday after practice. “But that won’t stop me from being who I am on the floor and having confidence in myself when I get back out there.”

Curry missed 11 games after spraining his ankle on Dec. 4 in New Orleans. He missed two games after tweaking it in shootaround on Jan 10. He missed no games after tweaking it March 2 in Atlanta. He has missed the last six games after tweaking it on March 8 against the Spurs.

“I’ve been very durable over the course of my career,” said Curry, who is listed as probable but fully expects to play Friday against Atlanta. “It’s just that I’ve had three untimely, freak accidents happen.”

Curry stepped on E’twaun Moore’s foot in New Orleans, on Zaza Pachulia’s foot in Atlanta and Dejounte Murray’s foot against the Spurs at Oracle Arena.

Not once in the previous five regular seasons did Curry miss significant time due to his tricky ankle. He missed a total of 16 games during that span, never more than four in a season, and six of those were for reasons of rest.

This season, however, has tested Curry’s patience like nothing since 2011-12, after which he had his second ankle surgery. He concedes that being in and out of the lineup has left him at times feeling “boredom, monotony and frustration.”

Though some of that can be attributed to the rehab process, there is no doubt part of that stems from watching the Warriors from the sideline.

With Curry out of the lineup this season, the Warriors are 13-8 (he missed one game with a hand bruise, another with a thigh bruise). That they are 40-10 when he’s in the lineup illustrates his importance.

It’s not just that he’s important. Curry is the catalyst for the offense and he can only be that if he is playing without regard for the possibility of injury. A hesitant Curry can’t be an effective Curry, so full throttle is the only way to go.

"If we’re trying to win a championship, I need to be out there,” he said. “That’s a given. We want every single guy out there, healthy and available, myself included. That’s the ideal situation.”

If he gets hurt along the way, so be it. As man of faith, he believes that anything that happens is influenced by a higher power.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting 3s or pullups are going into the lane or playing defense, that’s liable to happen any time,” Curry said. “Other than those instances, I haven’t had anything to worry about on the injury front. We are prisoners of the moment when it comes (playing the game). I don’t feel like I’m at a point where I have to change anything based on me being a durable player and being on the court consistently.

“Down the line, if you ask me about it in three of four years, there might be something I might need to change. But not right now.”

There is a segment of fans, worried about Curry’s health and realizing it is tied to the fate of the team, who would like him to dial back his aggression. Maybe avoid the paint and settle for more jump shots. He’s heard the advice and is not unwilling to launch a few more shots from deep.

But Curry is going to go where he sees daylight, and the best chance to make a positive play. He’ll take his chances because hesitation has no place in his mind or his game.


How Iguodala helped Looney get career on track, 'I finally listened to him...'


How Iguodala helped Looney get career on track, 'I finally listened to him...'

Back in late October, the Warriors declined their $2.3 million team option on Kevon Looney for the 2018-19 season.

How did that make him feel?

"It was kind of a let down," Looney told Tim Kawakami and Marcus Thompson on the Warriors Plus/Minus Podcast. "I knew it was up in the air. It was going back and forth, back and forth. When they didn't pick it up -- they told me why, I understood, I've been here for three years, I've seen a lot of players come and go; I know basketball is a business -- I was kind of let down.

"But I knew I was going to try and make the most of it. Now I'm playing for my contract for next year. I just wanted to go prove myself. I knew this summer there was a lot of doubts about what I could do. People were doubting if I would even be in the NBA still ... I knew what I was capable of."

Looney underwent surgery on his right hip in August 2015, and appeared in just five games during his rookie season.

He then had surgery on his left hip in April 2016, and appeared in 53 games (8.4 minutes per night) during the 2016-17 season.

This year, he's averaging career highs in points (3.5), rebounds (2.9), blocks (0.7) and minutes (12.0).

"This summer, I decided I just wanted to try go back to the way I played in college. It's been working for me," Looney explained. "I lost about 30 pounds this offseason and it's really made me a lot faster and a lot quicker. And I've been staying healthy."

How did he drop all that weight?

"A lot of broccoli and turkey and plain food. Food that wasn't that good but it's something that I had to get used to," Looney said. "Taco Bell, fried chicken, I was eating that on the regular ... coming off of injury, you can't eat like that. It's a different level of intensity in the NBA.

"I had to change my diet. Andre (Iguodala) was in my ear for two years about it. I finally listened to him and it paid off."

Looney will become an unrestricted free agent in July.

Although the Warriors declined the option, the 22-year old could return to Golden State -- but the max amount the Warriors can offer him is $2.3 million.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller