by Brandon Quinones
The Utah Jazz are set to square off against the Golden State Warriors tonight in San Francisco. The Jazz have won five games in a row and six of their last seven as they try to secure the number one seed.
They are looking to secure the top spot not only in the Western Conference, but in the entire league. The Jazz currently sit two games ahead of the two seed Phoenix Suns. The Suns lost yesterday to the Los Angeles Lakers. If the Jazz continue to take care of their own business, they should be able to comfortably capture the top seed for the first time since 1998. The Jazz made it all the way to the NBA Finals that year against Michael Jordan’s Bulls.
On the other hand, the Warriors have gone 6-4 in their last ten games behind legendary play from Stephen Curry. The Jazz and Warriors have split the season series 1-1 so far. Tonight’s winner will determine the winner of the season series between the two.
Aside from the fact that a lot of offense will be visible in this game, this could be a preview of a potential first-round matchup in the NBA Playoffs with the Warriors currently in the eight seed for the Western Conference. Although both teams are missing some key players, the Jazz could be in for quite the matchup as they face-off against the explosive Curry. Here are some takeaways that can help the Jazz secure a victory tonight.
1) Capitalize on non-Steph minutes
Being tasked with trying to stop Curry has proven to be quite the challenge and nearly impossible. That has been the case not only the last several seasons, but especially this season.
Teams need to focus on ways to limit him to doing certain things to slow him down. Even then, he still finds ways to get it done. Therefore, it might be wise to try and take advantage of the moments when Curry is not on the floor.
The Warriors would not be in the playoff chase this season were it not for Curry. They would statistically be the worst team in the league this season without him. Their net rating drops from 0.7 (15th in the league) to -15.1 (worst in the league) when he sits on the bench. That is almost an entire five points behind the OKC Thunder who currently have the worst net rating in the league at -10.7.
Knowing all this, the Jazz should do whatever they can to either capture the lead or further extend their lead in these opportune minutes. Curry is currently averaging 34 minutes per game. The Jazz will likely see around 14 minutes of game time where he sits on the bench. It will be important to capitalize on these minutes.
No lead is safe when Curry is on the opposition. Therefore, while the Jazz should do what they can to limit him while he is in the game, they should lean on their depth and trust them to play hard in those minutes so that the Jazz get on the verge of a blowout game. If it’s not a good shooting night for Utah, they should at least force the Warriors to play Curry more than they would like to.
With the Jazz having many offensive weapons available, they should do what they can to be competitive and carve out a lead early in the game. Then, they should ultimately unleash the offensive fireworks once Curry comes off the floor. This will create separation in this game as quickly as possible.
2) Force and take advantage of turnovers
The Warriors currently rank first in the league in assists per game. That means that they tend to rely on ball movement to create most of their offense. However, that tends to come with plenty of turnovers as well. The Warriors are fifth worst in the league with 15.1 turnovers per game.
The Jazz should focus on exploiting the lack of discipline that the Warriors have on protecting the basketball. That leads to easy scoring opportunities on the other end. Furthermore, turnovers will be a key factor of success in this one for the Jazz. That is because Warriors turnovers mean less scoring opportunities for Curry. Any chance to slow down or limit Curry should be taken full advantage of.
Forcing turnovers will be important because the team winning the turnover battle will have the best chance to control the rhythm and flow of the game. Although stopping Curry is at the top of any team’s list of hardest things to do, disrupting the offensive flow of the Warriors as a whole goes a long way. It limits the amount of damage they can do.
3) Rebounding success
This has been a key factor of success for the Jazz this season. The Jazz are currently second in the league in rebounding at 48.1 per game. In contrast, the Warriors are number 22 with 43.0 per game. The Jazz will have a great chance of success in this one if they continue to excel in the areas they do well in. By crashing the boards, they will be preventing second chances defensively. That will will be key because it’s not wise to give any team more chances to score than necessary. This is especially true against an offense led by Curry.
It should be a good sign that the Warriors currently rank last in the league in offensive rebounding. Furthermore, offensive rebounding for the Jazz can be a key factor. That is because it will likely create easy second chance opportunities for the Jazz to score.
Look out for Rudy Gobert in this one since the Warriors are missing some of their key interior defenders and rebounders in James Wiseman and Kelly Oubre Jr. Gobert may have one of the biggest impacts in tonight’s game if he can create second chance opportunities for the Jazz and close out on defensive possessions.
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