Warriors

Jazz will make series with Warriors harder than it looks

Jazz will make series with Warriors harder than it looks

So the Golden State Warriors don’t get a commuter series after all, and they get to play a team that plays as slow as they play fast, and they get to play at altitude – all things we will pretend matter greatly when this Western Conference semifinal series begins Tuesday night.

It won’t.

Well, let’s calm down a bit. It almost certainly won’t.

The Utah Jazz are not an easy out, not by a long shot. For one, they are not a mere shard of their former selves as the Clippers would have been. For two, they are pretty damned healthy as playoff basketball teams go. And for three, they are Memphis-funky, by which we mean like the Grizzlies, they pose conundrums unlike most teams that take awhile to break down and reassemble in a more digestible form.

On the other hand, they are not of Warrior quality, and though that seems frankly too smug by half, it is nonetheless true.

Now while the Golden States have their own issues – Steve Kerr’s head, Kevin Durant’s calf and Stephen Curry’s shoes – the Jazz are counterpunchers in the parlance. Not good enough to knock you out, but good enough to make you punch yourselves into exhaustion.

Golden State is 14-4 against the Jazz in the last five years, but it is the last year that counts most because this is the season in which the Jazz decided to attack the Warriors from beyond the three-point arc rather than the more traditional Rudy Gobert-Derrick Favors-low block route. Thus seems counterintuitive, especially when you consider that the one game Utah won, the 81st game of the season, they took 38 threes without Gordon Hayward playing, but head coach Quin Snyder has shown himself to be a more flexible coach than the one who collapsed at the college level.

But the way to understand the Jazz is not concern oneself with what they do but with what they will attempt to prevent the Warriors from doing. The Jazz ranks 2nd in threes allowed and percentage of those threes made, and they also rank a demonstrative last in pace.

So what we’re really talking about here, for those who want to get beneath the we’re-better-than-you-are nyah-nyah-nyah level, is whether Utah can make Golden State do what it wants rather than the other way around. If Utah gets its way, the scores will be in the high-nineties, low-hundreds range, as they are 37-10 holding the opponent under 100 points (including the Clipper series), while the Warriors were held under 100 only six times.

Conversely, the Warriors held 29 teams under 100, and were 27-2 in those games, so the Warriors are actually more efficient than Utah even at a languid pace.

In other words, the Warriors are better at what Utah does than Utah is, which is probably why you will see and hear lots of smug this week and next among all non-Warrior employees. Barring injury, or Mike Brown quitting coaching and turning the job over to . . . well, actually the only name that might even pose a threat here is Quin Snyder . . . the Warriors have no business being extended beyond five games.

But that was the logic that fans took into last year’s Oklahoma City series, and the Memphis series before that. Not every series is 2016 Houston or 2015 New Orleans, and no titles are ordained, as anyone who watched the last five minutes of Game 7 last year an grumpily testify.

In other words, Utah will make this harder than it looks, even if it doesn’t end up looking that hard, if that makes any sense, which it actually doesn’t.

Just trust us on this. Utah lost 10 games by double digits this year. They fall reluctantly and with considerable rancor. But these are the Warriors, and ultimately, the chances are considerable to the point of prohibitive that they will indeed fall.

We think.

Kevin Durant claps back at Colin Cowherd on Instagram after criticism

Kevin Durant claps back at Colin Cowherd on Instagram after criticism

Kevin Durant didn't need a burner account this time.

With all the drama surrounding Durant and Warriors teammate Draymond Green, Colin Cowherd responded harshly on his show The Herd. As Green reportedly dared Durant to leave the Warriors in free agency, Cowherd believes Durant needs the Warriors more than the back-to-back champs need him.

To no surprise, Durant understandly didn't take the criticism too well. On his own personal Instagram account, Durant clapped back to the talk show host.

Durant says he's done talking about the feud he and Green got into during an overtime loss to the Clippers. But the more he engages on social media, the longer this story will have life.

Two positives, two negatives from Warriors' 21-point loss to Rockets

Two positives, two negatives from Warriors' 21-point loss to Rockets

HOUSTON -- Shooting poorly, committing a series of ghastly turnovers and lacking verve, the Warriors were at their worst Thursday night in Houston.

They lost big, 107-86, to the Rockets and had no immediate answers.

Here are two positives (yes, two) and two negatives culled from the defeat:

NEGATIVES

The All-Stars were woeful

With Stephen Curry out, the bulk of the production falls upon Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. All three came up short.

Durant scored 20 points on 6-of-15 shooting, 0-of-2 from deep and 8-of-8 from the line. He grabbed five rebounds, with two assists and two turnovers. He was minus-11 over 30 minutes. His defense was too often casual.

Green had played only once in 11 days and looked the part. The Rockets dared him to shoot and he was scoreless (0-of-3, 0-of-2 from deep). His five assists were more than offset by five turnovers. He said he was “horrible.” He was.

It’s a must that Thompson scores, and he managed only 10 points (5-of-16, 0-of-5 beyond the arc). He didn’t get many clean looks, so he forced a few shots. Worse, he committed three turnovers without an assist.

Explains a lot, eh?

Something in the air

The Warriors clearly weren’t locked in. It was the third game in four nights, each game in a different city, this one in a different time zone.

Those were factors, perhaps, but the joyless buzz of the week created by the Durant-Green quarrel seemed to be evident in the team’s failure to put together stretches of strong play. The Warriors looked less like a team prepared to destroy an opponent than a team trying to make it through the night.

There was the cascade of turnovers, giving the Rockets 29 points (the Warriors forced only eight, worth 7 points). There was an utter lack of rhythm, some of which can be attributed to Houston’s keyed-up defense and some of it to experimental lineups that had mixed results.

The challenge falls on coach Steve Kerr and his staff, as well as the team’s star players. It may take time. Until they get past this, the Warriors will be vulnerable.

POSITIVES

No signs of irritation between Durant and Green

Durant still is bothered by being publically upbraided by Green. The Warriors were bothered enough by it to suspend Green for one game.

Because of that, all eyes were on them as they took the court for the first time since their late-game argument on the bench that continued in the locker room. They passed the eye test.

[POOLE: The anguish of Kevin Durant now dealing with more drama on the Warriors]

Durant’s second bucket, a dunk 68 seconds into the game, came off a feed from Green. There were moments when the two smiled in the wake of miscommunication on the court and they shared a laugh on the bench.

There was no sign of annoyance. Rather, it appeared they went out of their way to maintain a professional veneer. That’s sufficient for now.

Evans gets his first splash

Rookie guard Jacob Evans III had played a total of 10 minutes in the team’s first six games this month. He played 11 on Thursday. Maybe that, along with a stint with G-League Santa Cruz last week, helped.

The Cincinnati product made his first 3-pointer of the season, draining it from the right corner with 3:33 remaining in the second quarter. There was no celebration.

Evans had taken only two shots from deep before Thursday. He was 2-of-11 overall from the field before going 1-of-3 on Thursday.

The rookie plays solid defense. But he’ll have to make a few shots to get floor time. Maybe this will get him going.