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Game 4 Preview: Golden State Warriors vs Utah Jazz

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This Golden State Warriors team has required no introduction this season, no ascent or coronation. Their status has never changed since the day Kevin Durant announced his intention to join an already-dominant group: favorites, possibly big ones, and possibly one of the most loaded rosters of all time.

At the same time, though, Saturday’s Game 3 in Utah against the Jazz felt like the first time the power of this team was truly needed.

The Jazz played by far their best game of the series Saturday, and the Warriors almost certainly their worst. Utah held the Warriors to just seven of their patented fast break points, this after giving up 29 and 19 in Games 1 and 2, respectively. The Jazz cut their turnovers in half, and the share of Warriors points that came after these turnovers were chopped in half as well.

Utah also did by far their best job on Warriors shooters, particularly the Splash Brothers. The Dubs managed just 30 percent from deep, and the Steph Curry-Klay Thompson duo was 3-for-15 from beyond the arc. They made more trips to the line, had a much higher percentage of assisted baskets than the Warriors (an extreme rarity given the teams’ respective styles of offense) and got to the line 11 more times. At least through three quarters, this was one of the best defensive games the Jazz – one of the stingiest teams in the league to begin with – had played all year long.

Did any of it matter? Of course it didn’t.

When a couple All-Stars had a bit of a rough night, it was no problem; another, a recent MVP, just stepped up and took care of business. Kevin Durant was magnificent Saturday, combining with Curry to score each of the Warriors’ final 22 points in a furious, overwhelming run that made Utah’s own push seem diminutive at best.

Scottie Pippen in his prime wasn’t stopping KD once he got going in this one – he hit several ridiculous shots over great defense from Gordon Hayward, who did his best to match it on the other end but came up short. Postgame, Hayward bemoaned slightly less aggressive defense on Durant earlier in the game, which allowed him to see some shots splash through and find a rhythm. Once that happened, no defense was slowing this train down.

A few more games like this from the Dubs on their way to a seemingly inevitable title, and whispers of boredom and general lack of parity could grow to a resounding narrative. Let’s cross that bridge when we get there, though, and appreciate what was honestly one of the most well-played games of the entire postseason.

The Jazz had their season on the line, and they played like it. They overcame another sluggish start to take their first lead of the series into halftime, then stretched it to nine in the third quarter with a flurry of some of their best two-way play all season. They did it despite perfectly strong defense from the Warriors, an accomplishment in itself.

It just wasn’t enough. There’s been a lot of talk about switches and gears coming out of Cleveland this time of year; the Warriors deservedly don’t get that chat as often, in large part because their baseline play is just so much higher than the Cavs’, but Saturday night showed us that this team can still turn on the juice to another level when it’s (rarely) needed. The level this team can attain with their best lineups on the floor, locked in and scrapping every possession, is among the highest the game has ever seen.

This series is about pride for the Jazz now – we’ll see if even that is a strong enough force to overcome this Warriors behemoth. There isn’t a whole lot more to adjust tactically; the Jazz threw everything they had out in Game 3, and most of it worked about as well as you can ask. That’s what this Warriors group has reduced things to.

Who Wins Game 4?

The Jazz are a prideful bunch, and they won’t lay down. But it feels like they emptied the cabinet in Game 3, and the Dubs smell blood. The Warriors sweep the series and move on to round three.

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About Ben Dowsett

Ben Dowsett

Ben Dowsett is a Deputy Editor and in-depth basketball analyst based in Salt Lake City. He covers the Jazz on a credentialed basis for Basketball Insiders, and has previously appeared in the Sports Illustrated and TrueHoop Networks. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.