by Alma Bean
Feature Photo: Photo by Rick Bowmer of AP Photo.
Double the Price for Half the Stars
Before tip-off, Utah made a last-second adjustment to the lineup. Lauri Markkanen was scratched from the lineup due to an illness. With Markkanen out, he is added to a long list of stars who were out for this game including, Stephen Curry, Mike Conley, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins. Both teams were forced to use unusual starting lineups given the circumstances.
Golden State was off to a hot from the perimeter shooting 5/10 (50%). A major contributor in the first quarter was Jordan Poole (36/4/8) who shot 5/7 (71.4%) and 3/3 (100%) within the arc. With Poole’s great start, it covered the poor start by Klay Thompson (22/2/3). Thompson shot 1/7 (14.3%) from the field with his only make being from the perimeter. Golden State struggled as Ty Jerome (4/3/2), filling in for Curry, had two fouls in the first three minutes. Utah without Markkanen managed to have a more balanced attack on offense as Malik Beasley (18/3/1) was their leading scorer with six points. Even with a balanced attack, Utah trailed 35-30 at the end of the quarter.
Utah managed to improve their three-point shooting in the second quarter going 3/6 (50%) after going 2/7 (28.6%) in the previous quarter. Simone Fontecchio (18/3/1) went 2/2 (100%) from the perimeter accounting for all six of his points in the quarter. Even with the return of Rudy Gay (9/4/1), who played 14 minutes, Fontecchio still was able to clock in 19 minutes in the rotation. With both teams still able to score at will combining for 70 points, Utah went into the half trailing 69-66.
Rollercoasters Like Disneyland
Utah continued to put their foot on the gas pedal to start the second half. So much so that Utah had a game-high 12-point lead during the third quarter. Walker Kessler (10/12/1) is the defensive anchor for Utah racking up his fourth block of the game against Poole. Nickeil Alexander-Walker (11/7/4) was a pest on defense forcing Golden State to look for their next man. This led Golden State to only being able to shoot 4/13 (30.8%) from the perimeter while Utah was able to shoot 7/13 (53.8%) from the arc. With excellent efficiency from Utah, outscoring Golden State 34-22, Utah goes into the fourth quarter with a 100-91 lead.
For the fourth quarter, roles switched for Golden State and Utah. Anything within the arc became free reign as Golden State shot 10/16 (62.5%) while continuing to struggle from the perimeter going 3/11 (27.3%) for the quarter. Utah allowed Golden State to keep the game close by consistently committing turnovers with 17 for the game resulting in 20 points for Golden State. Didn’t help that Collin Sexton (17 points and 3 assists) left the game with a leg injury but left under his own power.
Things got a bit out of hand as the game was nearing a close. With referees allowing the game to have a physical presence, the game started to get a little rough. Multiple calls were not being acknowledged, and frustration led to benches clearing as Jordan Clarkson and Jonathan Kuminga got into a scuffle resulting in Clarkson receiving a flagrant two-foul call and being ejected from the game. Kuminga and Beasley also received technical fouls that offset each other. With the yelling of mixed emotions from the evenly divided crowd, tempers were high till the final buzzer.
So Much in So Little Time
With Golden State able to get a four-point lead, 123-119, with 13 seconds left, seemed as if the game was over. Though it took six seconds off the clock, Alexander-Walker was able to get a clear path to the hoop but passed out to an open Beasley for three. Golden State responds with a timeout as they lead 123-122 and possession of the ball. Inbound pass to Poole who was double covered by Alexander-Walker and Kelly Olynyk (15/3/5). Alexander-Walker poked the ball free as Beasley drove down the court and passed it to Fontecchio who slammed the ball in to give Utah a 124-123 lead with little over a second left in the game.
With no timeouts, Golden State was forced to throw a Hail Mary down the court. Pass was broken up to start the clock and the final buzzer sound to give Utah the win. Over the last 25 seasons, when Utah has trailed by 4+ points with 10 seconds left, Utah’s record was 1-718. Utah managed to defy the odds in an improbable win.