In the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Golden State Warriors will face the Utah Jazz. Let’s take a look at five keys for this matchup.
The Golden State Warriors haven’t played since last Monday, when they demolished the Portland Trail Blazers on the way to the four-game sweep. The Utah Jazz just completed a grueling seven-game series over the Clippers, winning narrowly on the road to advance.
The Jazz and Warriors have picked very different paths to get to this second-round matchup, but here we are less than 24 hours to go before Game 1 in Oracle Arena. The two teams have played each other three times so far in the regular season, with Golden State taking two of the three games. An important factor in all three of those games is that neither team was fully healthy, so Game 1 will be the first time they play each other with everyone healthy.
In their first meeting back in December, the Warriors won 106-99, but the Jazz didn’t have starters, Gordon Hayward and George Hill, and key reserve Rodney Hood. In their second meeting, Hill and Derrick Favors were absent, as the Warriors thrashed the Jazz, 104-74.
In the latest game, when the Jazz narrowly edged past the Warriors, 105-99, the Jazz were without Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood, while Klay Thompson didn’t suit up for the Warriors.
The Warriors continue their quest to get back to a third straight NBA Finals, with a young, well-coached Utah Jazz team in their path. Lets take a look at five keys for this series for both teams.
5. Can we stay healthy?
When Rudy Gobert went down less than 17 seconds into Game 1 against the Los Angeles Clippers, many Jazz fans had believed that their playoff hopes were hanging by the ligaments in Gobert’s knee.
The Frenchman returned in Game 3 of the series, averaging 21.4 minutes, 8.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for the rest of the series. But clearly, even the casual fan could tell that Gobert wasn’t having the same impact on the floor post-injury.
The Warriors’ quickness and speed will certainly test Gobert’s movement and ability to defend. Golden State will also try smaller lineups that will really test Gobert.
In the other locker room, the Warriors have also been banged up, but by looking at the series against the Portland Trail Blazers, you probably couldn’t have guessed it. Kevin Durant was battling a calf strain and Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes were both nursing minor injuries.
Durant should be a full go in Game 1, while Barnes is probable and Livingston remains questionable. It’s been a recurring theme for the Jazz-Warriors all season long, but they can’t seem to play each other unless someone is injured and out.
Gobert’s ability to stay healthy will be vital for the Jazz to have any chance in this series, while Durant will look to not re-aggravate any injuries. The healthier team should have a decent advantage in this series and at this time of year, it could have a huge impact on the outcomes.