After a disappointing Game 1 loss to the Golden State Warriors, it’s clear that the Utah Jazz desperately need somebody on the team to step up.
Well, Game 1 of the second-round series between the Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors certainly didn’t go the way Jazz fans would’ve hoped. For all the talk of the Utah Jazz perhaps coming out and shocking the world, the game ended up being pretty predictable.
Although I didn’t necessarily expect the Jazz to win the game, I must say I was expecting Utah to put up more of a fight. However, Golden State got off to a rock solid start, going up 9-0 right off the bat and they essentially never looked back from there.
Of course it was just one game and the Warriors were coming in off of eight full days of rest whereas the Jazz just finished up a grueling seven-game series on Sunday, but if we learned (or re-learned I should say) anything from Game 1 it’s that Golden State is really, REALLY good and upsetting them is going to take four near-perfect performances from the Jazz.
Unfortunately, they now have only six more chances to win four games, decreasing their odds even further.
And if they hope to boost those odds and give themselves any hope of winning, not only will they need to do a better job of executing in the areas that I detailed yesterday, but they’ll also need several of their key guys to step up. In fact, Utah’s fate in last night’s game could have been much different had even one single guy been able to elevate his game to a satisfactory level.
But unfortunately, the harsh reality of last night’s loss is that nobody on the Jazz roster had anything closely resembling a memorable game.
Just one look at the box score is all it takes to realize how out of sync the Jazz were. Gordon Hayward finished with 12 points on an abysmal 4-of-15 shooting. George Hill put up just seven points on 3-of-9 shooting and was a -15 for the night. Joe Johnson went a respectable 4-of-10 from the field but finished with just 11 points which is a paltry number compared to how he performed against the Clippers.
Meanwhile, Joe Ingles was very much a non-factor with just five points, while Derrick Favors who was ailing from a back injury finished with just four points and was essentially run off the court, finishing with a team low plus/minus of -17. Shelvin Mack, who oddly enough was the first point guard off the bench, went just 2-of-7 from the field for six points.
Going deeper into the bench, although the majority of Dante Exum’s minutes were logged during garbage time, it should be noted that he went a perfect 3-of-3 from the field to notch seven points for the game. Given that winning this series is a long shot as it is and the fact that none of Utah’s backup point guards are reliable anyway, it’d be nice to see the young Australian pick up more minutes moving forward.
Joel Bolomboy also showed some promise in garbage time where he put in four points in five minutes, making both of his field goal attempts.
However, setting the encouraging but altogether meaningless garbage time minutes aside, the Jazz simply did not get enough contributions from anybody on the roster. Rudy Gobert led all scorers with 13 points, but failed to crack double figures in rebounding and quite frankly the Warriors were able to neutralize him as a defensive threat.
I’m not even close to convinced myself that Rudy Gobert is 100 percent out there. He seems hesitant to go up strong to the rim and has looked somewhat timid and about a half step slow on defense since his return last series.
It’s a shame that now that the Jazz are on the national stage, they seem to be getting about a 75 percent version of Rudy Gobert, because his play following the All-Star break during the regular season was absolutely breath-taking and it would be great for Utah’s chances in the series and for Rudy individually as a breakout star if he could showcase those skills on the biggest stage.
The Warriors undoubtedly deserve a lot of credit for being elite on both ends of the floor and taking care of business against Gobert. However, he’s certainly more capable than what he has shown in the postseason so far, so hopefully he’ll get it turned around and still be able to be a force in these playoffs.
The other Jazzman beyond Rudy that had somewhat of an impact was Rodney Hood. Hood finished with 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting which was one of his more efficient outings in the postseason. Unfortunately, Rodney went 0-of-4 from the three-point line which led to him to having to get his points by being more assertive in the paint.
It was good to see him change things up with the three-ball not falling, but Hood is in the game to be a three-point threat, so if he’s not connecting from deep he’s not truly filling his role. Hood is shooting just 30.8 percent from behind the arc in the playoffs and has gone just 2-of-16 (12.5 percent) in Utah’s postseason losses. He certainly can be an X-factor for the Jazz but up to this point he has hurt more than he has helped the Jazz despite the decent showing last night.
More than anything, Utah’s two leading scorers, Gordon Hayward and George Hill, have to set the tone for the rest of the team. If those two are playing well, then it dramatically helps their teammates be able to step up as well.
Unfortunately, Hayward doesn’t have much of a track record against Golden State this year. He logged just one game against the Warriors during the regular season and it was one of his worst games of the year as he finished with just six points on 2-of-10 shooting.
He wasn’t quite that off last night, but it still wasn’t a pretty performance. Though Golden State’s offense is usually what is most touted about them, they’re also terrific defensively as well and their ability to continually throw solid defenders at Hayward such as Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala will definitely make his life difficult.
Nevertheless, Gordon is an All-Star and he has to play as such, especially with the stakes at their highest. I’m confident that Hayward, with help from Coach Snyder, will be able to make the proper adjustments to be able to get his own moving forward, much like how he was eventually able to break from LA’s Luc Mbah a Moute to be dominant in the series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
All things considered, George Hill had a relatively solid series against the Clippers overall, but his infuriating inconsistency definitely was on full display last night. Sure, Hill had the daunting task of covering Chris Paul last series and now has the even harder assignment of checking Steph Curry, but Utah still absolutely has to have him contribute on offense.
And although Paul is known as a hard-nosed defender, Steph Curry on the other hand is most certainly not. For everything Curry does well, being a lock-down defender is not one of them. Therefore, the Jazz desperately need Hill to take advantage of that mismatch on offense and generate some much-needed points.
Unfortunately, Hill has shot just 29.4 percent (5-of-17) from deep in his last five games and that’s an area where he simply has to be better.
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So while the Game 1 loss wasn’t shocking in and of itself, the way in which the Jazz were completely shut down and largely failed to compete was a bit surprising. We all know how minuscule Utah’s chances are of winning the series anyway, but if they want to have any hope of advancing and challenging the Warriors, it’s obvious that somebody, anybody, is going to have to step up – something that most definitely did not happen last night.
Of course George Hill, Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and based on last series, Joe Johnson, are the guys that Utah will most be relying on to make major contributions (but of course surprise performances from others will be very welcome as well). Unless one or more of them can find a way to overcome a staunch Warriors defense and give the Jazz some life, this series could be over very quickly.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com