For the first time in over a month and for a third time overall this season, the Golden State Warriors have lost consecutive games, this time 110-100 to the Utah Jazz, led by a big night from Gordon Hayward and overall disregarding the defense that has made so many teams wither away through games very early.
The Jazz jumped on the Warriors quite early. Steve Kerr later said it was a matter of effort and focus, and that his team couldn’t get away with giving a mediocre one. But it was also about the Jazz playing a big lineup that made it very difficult for both Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green to dominate the paint on both sides of the floor. Green, being deep down a dirty player (still) managed to get away once again with his attempts to injure other players.
Stephen Curry did score 32 points, but Klay Thompson struggled against a very good defensive effort and was held to just 12 points and 5-of-10 from the field. Green scored just 7 points, Harrison Barnes finished with 4 and the Warriors couldn’t get their usual fast break points, finishing with just 18. They had only 2 blocks in the game and 8 steals, while the Jazz shot rather well from beyond the arc (36%) and dominated the offensive glass with 17 offensive rebounds.
Bogut was busy with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter down low and didn’t get the support he needed from the perimeter players, allowing Hayward to grab five offensive rebounds, en route to 15 boards and 26 points in one of his best games this season. Rudy Gobert provided a handful of problems for Golden State with six offensive rebounds of his own, while Trevor Booker and Trey Burke combined to score 32 points off the bench.
Burke playing off the bench takes time to get used to, but it seems that it’ll be beneficial for both him and Dante Exum, with the rookie point guard scoring just 3 points but a lot of his defense and size started and opened up things for the Jazz, although there won’t be anyone who doesn’t agree that they expected a bit more from the number five overall pick, averaging just 4.9 points and 2.1 assists in 19.8 minutes. On the other hand, he was taken with the word ‘project’ on everyone’s mind.
The Warriors shot just 43% from the field and 29.6% from beyond the arc. When their defense isn’t capable of producing points, they rely on Curry and Thompson to go into ‘Splash Brothers’ mode and rectify the situation. But all strong teams rely on defense first to win them games. The Warriors have given up 110 points or more in three of their last four games. Eventually, that kind of defensive issue was going to catch up with them.
Not everything is bad. The Warriors still have the best record in the Western conference (36-8), three games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s quite clear that even when their defense isn’t playing at an elite level, they have a good enough offense to keep them in any game. But first losing to the Bulls at home and now on the road against a middling Jazz team, it’s quite clear that teams are figuring out how to deny the Warriors their destructive runs and fast break stretches, and it’s once again on Steve Kerr to make a chance and adjust so everything they’ve done in the first half of the season won’t go to waste.