DENVER -- Trailing for 22 minutes from late in the second quarter until midway through the fourth, the Warriors recovered by tightening their defense and turning to Stephen Curry’s offense.
So much for all those 3-pointers swished by the Utah Jazz, forcing the Warriors to play catch-up. The evening turned from thrill to torture for the Jazz and their fans, with the Warriors yanking out a 124-123 win at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
It was an odd recipe, but it produced the desired results. Here are two positives and two negatives culled from the game:
Jonas Jerebko’s introduction
After finishing 29th in 3-point makes by bench players in 2016-17, the Warriors added deep gunners Nick Young and Omri Casspi -- and dropped to 30th. They averaged 2.1 triples per game two years ago, and 2.0 last season.
Still hoping to alleviate that problem, the Warriors in July signed Jonas Jerebko, a stretch-4. After missing his only 3-point attempt in the opener, he came in to make his first two on Friday, single-handedly tying the team’s recent average per game.
Jerebko will be celebrated for his tip-in that provided the margin of victory, but the most encouraging sight tor the Warriors was those 3-point shots snapping the nets.
“He played well right from the beginning,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He hit a couple 3s early and he was scrapping. The matchup was good for him. That’s how it’s going to be for Jonas. He’s going to really shine in some games, and he may not even play in others, depending on matchups. But he was fantastic.”
Klay Thompson’s defense
Klay Thompson’s primary defensive assignment was Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, whose scoring and leadership built a strong case for Rookie of the Year last season. It’s a tough assignment in that Mitchell plays both guard positions and can score at all three levels.
Mitchell was 7 of 23 (including 4 of 12 from beyond the arc). He scored 19 points, the second-highest total on the team, but he missed 16 shots. Moreover, he was 3 of 15 in the second half -- including an 0-for-7 fourth quarter.
When the Jazz needed Mitchell the most, he was under a blanket.
Thompson was all over him, using length -- at 6-foot-7, he’s four inches taller than Mitchell -- but also splendidly cutting off angles and forcing Mitchell to fire contested shots. He made the confident second-year star uncomfortable all night but miserable down the stretch.
Klay Thompson’s offense
Thompson’s defense was as remarkable as his offense was mediocre. He scored 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting and missed his only two attempts from beyond the arc -- which is his signature.
He settled for midrange shots because Utah was allowing them, and also because he was having more success. It was the smart play, given his struggles from deep.
Thompson also seemed to waver with his aggression. He took only nine shots -- zero in 10 fourth-quarter minutes. He practically disappeared. And when he emerged, trying to snap out of his funk, he forced a couple shots and a couple more passes, resulting in two second-half turnovers.
After 16-of-29 3-point shooting in four preseason games, Thompson is 1-of-10 in the first two games that matter. He’ll get better, but for now his defense is vastly superior to his offense.
Trouble with arithmetic
Because they have great long-distance shooters in Curry and Thompson, the Warriors are said to have started the 3-point revolution. Well, the rest of the league is catching up -- and, in many ways, has passed the fathers of this offensive shift.
The Warriors fired a total of 19 3-pointers on Friday. The Jazz made 19, on 46 attempts. This came after the Warriors were 7-of-26 in the opener, while Oklahoma City was 10-of-37.
One of the foundations of Kerr’s offense is the 3-point shot. He encourages anyone with a decent look and ability to make the shot to take it. He cites the math: Three is more than two. He also concedes the Warriors will never follow Houston’s blueprint under head coach Mike D’Antoni, who wants the Rockets to shoot 50 triples per game.
Opponents are scheming to take those shots away, but the Warriors usually counter that with screens and constant motion. They’re just not as committed to the 3-point shot as others are. They’ll try to overcome it with better accuracy. They barely got away with it on Friday.