RECAP: Early Lead for Warriors Coasts Them to Victory
Part of the purpose of going to this Golden State Warriors road game in Salt Lake City was to watch one of the most anticipated, winningest and probably most hated teams in NBA basketball. However, I'm also a fan of the game in general so when I go to a non-Lakers game I try to remain as neutral as possible so I don't look like a fan of either team, but more an overall observer of the game. I found myself getting excited about the things the Warriors were doing, but I couldn't help it. The Jazz also had some good stuff going as well, but they lacked the flair the Warriors exhibit through their speed, offensive fluidity, and determination to win.
My two friends and I arrived early to Vivint Smart Home Arena so I had a chance to snap some photos at the shoot around. Since the “unanimous” MVP was in the building I focused my attention on the Warriors end of the floor during the shoot around. I’ve been to a handful of games in Salt Lake City, including Kobe’s farewell game. But I have never seen so many people near the tunnel trying to get autographs. It was really cool to see younger kids getting Curry and KD’s autographs. There was one little girl who got KD’s autograph on a Sports Illustrated cover he was on - she was in tears of excitement. I would’ve been excited to, because the best autograph I’ve ever acquired was probably Jeremy Lin when he played for the Lakers. This time around, I’m just thankful I had the opportunity to watch some of the greatest players in the league up close.
Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have a very interesting warm-up routine. If you understand their play style which involves quick decision-making and some unorthodox shooting abilities, some of their warm-up techniques might make some sense. Curry practices a lot of off-balance shots from different angles during his shootaround time. He also takes a lot of high-arching shots. By practicing these things, I think it helps him with his improvisations in all areas of the court. Kevin Durant likes to do a deep squat when he’s shooting his inside jumpers during the shoot around. He will go down low, dribble the ball one time, and come up slowly to a high release. Also, while shooting free throws, he will do a 180-degree pivot one way and back before shooting. Then he does it the opposite direction. Once he’s made one from each side that way, he does a 360-degree spin on one foot before shooting. Then he spins the opposite way. These are the type of things you don’t get to see when you watch a game on TV. I love being able to get there early and try to understand players in a different way, especially some of the better players in the league.
The Warriors got off to a quick start in the first quarter as they went on a 29-1 run after letting the Jazz score the first two buckets of the game. The highlight of the first quarter would be Steph Curry hitting two three-pointers back to back, then getting fouled while hitting a deep 2-pointer just inside the three-point line.
The way the refs called this game was annoying to me. The Warriors got away with a lot of no-calls, and most of the fouls that were called were in their favor. I’m okay with the no-calls against the Warriors on the defensive end as long as they had done the same for the Jazz on the other end. It would have made the game more physical, therefore more entertaining. The Jazz had all the opportunities in the world to bring this game back. The Warriors were playing okay defense, but the Jazz were still managing to get a lot of open shots - they just wouldn’t go in. Something to note is most of those open shots were three-pointers, so it seemed like they were just jacking up a bunch of bombs in desperation to come back. I would have loved to see them come back, because that always makes for a rowdy crowd at home. However, I was also hoping for a wide open fast break for KD to throw down a filthy dunk. He had a couple dunks, but nothing all that snazzy.
Down the stretch the Jazz did catch up with the help of a three-point barrage from Joe Ingles. He ended up with a career high of 21 points, as well as a career high for five three-pointers made. But as the game got close, the Warriors began matching the Jazz point-for-point. If the Jazz hit a three, the Warriors would answer right back with their own three. They put up a good fight at the end, but it was too late. Even though the game was practically over with the Warriors up ten, Draymond got a technical foul for mouthing off to the Jazz coach, Quin Snyder. He basically told him that the game was over and there was no sense in calling a timeout with six seconds to go. The Warriors ended up winning by seven.
Whether you’re a Warriors fan or not, I feel like you’d be lying if you said they weren’t exciting to watch. Their ball movement is quick and on point, and they can put up 140 points on any given night. They break crazy records all the time, even the “unbreakable” records (see: points by one player in a quarter, number of three-pointers in a season for one player, number of threes in a game by one player). I can verify that they are even more exciting to watch in person. On TV, you don’t get a full view of the court to help you appreciate how much they stretch out the opposing defense. On offense, everybody is constantly moving, setting screens and getting people wide open for good shots. The Jazz just didn’t have that same urgency. Their offense would get stuck a lot, allowing the Warriors to get in a good defensive position.
Eventually, I’d like to watch LeBron James and the Cavaliers, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for an opportunity to catch them in Salt Lake. If you’ve never been to a live NBA game, I highly recommend it. Get there early, and go down by the court to watch players practice. It will give you a new understanding of the type of work they put in to be prepared to compete. If you’re stealthy enough, you might be able to squeeze through the crowd for an autograph. Just remember to be respectful - the kids trying to get autographs look up to these players more than you might think. That signature could mean the world to them.
NOTE: Please forgive me for the poor photo quality in the images below. I took them with my iPhone and I had to zoom in 100% to get good cropping. I'm just glad I got something.