NBA: Facing defending champs, Jazz aim to get back on track
The Utah Jazz get an opportunity to show off their new look to the defending NBA champions when they visit San Francisco to take on the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
The matchup of two of the season’s biggest surprises — one positive, one negative — comes two days after the Jazz struggled through arguably their most disappointing effort of the season, while the Warriors were flashing some of their championship form.
The Jazz watched as the Detroit Pistons scorched their defense for 49.4 percent shooting overall and 50.0 percent from 3-point range in a 125-116 surprise upset in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night.
Having ridden a high-flying offense to a 10-3 start, the Jazz lost for the fifth time in their last seven games (and held to fewer than 120 points for the sixth time in that stretch). Meanwhile, Utah’s opponent poured in 120 or more for the fourth time in those seven games, including each of the last two.
Utah has played its last two games without point guard Mike Conley, who suffered a strained left knee last Saturday against Portland. He isn’t expected to return until December.
Collin Sexton has been promoted from Utah’s potent reserve crew to start the last two games with mixed results. He had 10 points and just one assist in a road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday but turned in a 17-point, 12-assist outing against the Pistons two days later.
Jazz players admitted after Wednesday’s loss that complacency might have set in within a group that began the season with an underdog’s mentality.
“I do feel like, with the season that we’ve had so far, we think it’s going to be a little bit easier — and that’s how we can’t play,” Malik Beasley observed after a 29-point outing off the bench. “We’ve got to play with that dog mentality — try to win every game, go for loose balls, things like that. Make it scrappy.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has had a similar complaint about his defending champs as they struggled through a 6-9 start. But things appear to have turned around a bit with Golden State having won three of four, including 124-107 at home over the Clippers on Wednesday.
One key to the recent success has been getting Stephen Curry some help offensively. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins have all had big games of late.
Thompson began the turnaround with 20- and 41-point performances in wins over New York and Houston. Green, who has been seeing more minutes than usual trying to stabilize the second unit, has totaled 23 points, 22 rebounds and 27 assists in the last three wins.
But it was Wiggins who drew Kerr’s biggest praise after Wednesday’s win, one in which he had a season-high 31 points while bombing in six 3-pointers for a second consecutive game.
“He’s shooting the lights out,” Kerr gushed of Wiggins, who has averaged 24.3 points and shot 15-for-29 on threes in Golden State’s last three wins. He, Curry, Thompson and Green all sat out the only loss in the last four contests — Monday at New Orleans.
“He’s so consistent from the field and the 3-point line,” Kerr continued. “You see how comfortable he is in our offense.”
–Field Level Media