Another game at Oracle and another sluggish, low-scoring first quarter. The only difference was, that lack of vigor seeped into every minute of the rest of the game.
Combine that with the way the Utah Jazz (32-25) defend — currently fourth in the NBA in defensive rating — and it was a slog of a game.
Until Stephen Curry ignited a fourth-quarter run, going off for eight straight points, to finally push the Warriors (41-15) out of reach, and seal a 115-108 win Tuesday.
Curry was quiet all night, struggling to put down his open looks from deep, going just 5-of-14. While is offense sputtered he showed out in other ways, like his tenacity on defense.
Steve Kerr was quick to credit his star for his defensive effort:
“I thought Steph set a great tone for us defensively right away. He was really getting into the ball and helped us to get off to a good start.”
In true Curry fashion though, he did have one hot stretch in the fourth. He scored eight straight points to push his game total to 24 points and give the Warriors a significant cushion on the scoreboard.
It’s been a rough stretch for Curry from his usually comfortable spot outside the arc. He is shooting just 37 percent in February, and that number has been inflated due to some-late game heroics.
But on a team full of All-Stars, there’s always someone else who is there to pick up the slack. Recently it’s been Kevin Durant — even though he is actually struggling worse than Curry from 3.
Durant sits at just 27 percent from downtown since the calendar turned. It’s been his midrange game though that’s shown brightest these last few games. He went off for 28 points just two days after dropping 39 on the Miami Heat.
He is shooting an absurd 44-of-58 inside the arc over his last five games, good for 76 percent, and has been the Warriors stabilizing force as they still try to work in DeMarcus Cousins.
Durant was quick to point out that both he and the team needs to be locked in, in all aspects of the game though:
“We could start off with a little bit more intensity on the defensive side of the ball. And rebounding. We have to all come in and rebound. I had two rebounds tonight, I’m 6-foot-9, I can’t do that if we want to win.”
Klay Thompson added 22 of his own despite having to leave early in the first quarter after dislocating his left ring finger. A little tape and he was good to go, immediately throwing down a dunk upon his return to the court.
Curry said by Thompson’s reaction he already knew what had happened:
“I saw the reaction, I didn’t see the play, but I saw him when he looked down, and you kind of know what that look is. For guys that have been through that, it’s just one glance and then you hold your hand out and you know somethings up. Thankfully he got back out there and really didn’t miss a beat.”
The story of the game was really the Warriors defense though, keeping them ahead for much of the contest. They held Utah to just 5-of-19 shooting and just 14 total points in the opening frame, and it’s not a surprise that Draymond Green led the charge.
His stats don’t show it but Green was tuned in defensively, shutting down the lane, while also contesting perimeter shots.
Durant said a lot of Green’s impact still goes unappreciated:
“Hopefully people start to take notice. Unless you are getting steals and blocks people don’t really realize what you do on defense until you watch a full game. People don’t want to watch full games no more, they want to just look at the stats. If you watch Draymond play, you’ll understand what he brings.”
The defensive energy wilted as the game went on from everyone not named Green however, and the Jazz continuously picked on Cousins. They endlessly put him in pick and rolls with most resulting in finishes at the rim for Rudy Gobert.
While Cousins totaled a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards, it was another rough outing for the big man. But just like against Miami, he came up with a big offensive rebound to all but seal the game.
Kerr said Cousins needs to get those minutes to break through that last ceiling of his comeback:
“I thought his energy was great. He didn’t have a good shooting night, but he just brought it, he brought the intensity. I thought he played really well in the fourth.”
It is a work in progress for him in the post, but his effort level remains high despite that, and he continues to make a difference when it matters most.
One more game awaits Golden State before the All-Star break—and it just so happens to also be a back-to-back. The team will have to travel to Portland to take on Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers before they can enjoy their seven days of rest.
The Warriors announced that DeMarcus Cousins and Shaun Livingston will sit out the team’s back-to-back set in Portland Wednesday.