On the brink of elimination, time is running out for the Utah Jazz

May 6, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) sits before the game against the Golden State Warriors in game three of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
May 6, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) sits before the game against the Golden State Warriors in game three of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

The Utah Jazz gave their best effort of the series in Game 3, but still ultimately fell into an 0-3 deficit, essentially erasing their already meager chances of advancing.

Last season, if someone had told me that in a game against the Golden State Warriors, the Utah Jazz had held Draymond Green to just nine points, Klay Thompson to just six points while limiting Step Curry to 6-of-20 shooting, I would have surmised that Utah had won that game in blowout fashion.

Well it just so happens that limiting those players in that way is exactly what the Jazz were able to do last night. Unfortunately, as we all know all too well by now, the Warriors added former MVP Kevin Durant to the squad this summer. And while there have been games where he’s looked like the third or fourth fiddle, that certainly wasn’t the case last night.

Despite the formidable job the Jazz did on three of Golden State’s Big Four, Durant came up huge as he finished with 38 points on 15-of-26 shooting and looked essentially unstoppable.

Regarding trying to defend the Warriors, I think 1280 The Zone’s Angie Treasure put it best by describing it as a game of Whack-A-Mole as seen in the tweet and recap below:

You may stop one, or two or, as the Jazz did last night, maybe even three of them. But halting four All-Stars for a complete 48-minute contest is a nearly impossible task. Therefore, despite Utah’s valiant effort which saw them lead by as much as nine and even be ahead in the fourth quarter, the Jazz fell 102-91 and now find themselves in a 0-3 hole, the like of which has never been overcome.

Of course one might argue that after being the team that gave up a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals last year, perhaps the Golden State Warriors would be a prime candidate to follow that up with a blown 3-0 lead this time around. Unfortunately, that’s nothing more than a pipe dream. It won’t happen – not this four-headed monster of a Warriors team, and not against this Jazz team.

That’s not a slight against the Utah Jazz whatsoever. They’ve been an incredible squad all season long, have overcome an onslaught of injuries and other adversity and quite honestly have gone further in the postseason than many expected.

Were we all hopeful that the Jazz could push the Warriors more than they have so far and perhaps win a game or two? No doubt. But obviously it wasn’t in the cards (at least not so far) and there’s also no doubting that the loss of George Hill to that infamous toe injury that’s bothered him all year long as well as the bumps and bruises that several other guys such as Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors are facing have hindered the Jazz.

Even so, I don’t know that it would have made much difference.

If last night’s loss taught us anything, it’s that although the Utah Jazz have some nice depth in both their first and second units, they need a solid third option alongside Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert if they hope to be able to compete with the elite teams of the league.

All season long, those two have carried the Jazz as they improved their games much more than many expected. However, beyond those two, the majority of Utah’s young, “high-potential” guys failed to elevate their game to the next level this year. That’s something that has been evident all series, but especially last night.

Gordon Hayward finished the game with 29 points while Rudy Gobert put in 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting while adding 15 boards and four assists. His free throw shooting needs some major improvement (he went 7-of-15 from the line) but it’s hard to cast much blame on him for that based on everything else he did well.

Outside of those two, Utah’s leading scorer was Shelvin Mack with a meager 11 points that came off of yet another horrific shooting night as he went just 3-of-11 from the field. If Mack is a team’s third scoring option (which he isn’t generally it just happened to be the case last night), they’re in deep trouble.

Meanwhile, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood who are two guys that at the season’s start were expected to be primary candidates as Utah’s third option (or quite honestly second option given that Gobert’s rise on offense was largely unforeseen), were largely ineffective.

An ailing Favors logged just six minutes and zero points while Rodney Hood, who apparently left his shot back in Game 4 of the first round, put up just three points on 1-of-8 shooting. Their recent slide into irrelevance has been a back-breaker for the Jazz. Then there’s George Hill who for most of the season was Utah’s second or third option. Unfortunately, his injured toe kept him out of the game, making him unable to produce entirely.

Last of all, Joe Johnson who emerged as Utah’s savior in the first round, has struggled to make much of an impact against the much more competent Warriors. He put in just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field and went 1-of-5 from deep.

And despite all that, the Jazz had the lead during the fourth quarter against arguably the best team this league has ever seen.

That’s both somewhat disappointing, but also bodes very well for the future. Dennis Lindsey and the rest of the Jazz brass have some big decisions to make this offseason, but the one thing that is clear is that they have to bring in a reliable third option for the Jazz that can help them develop the offensive firepower that will allow them to compete with the league’s best.

Last night, Utah put up an incredible fight and without a doubt their best effort of the series so far. Nevertheless, it still wasn’t nearly enough as Golden State’s onslaught of talent left the Jazz reeling and desperate for answers.

Unfortunately, now facing an 0-3 deficit, it appears that Coach Quin Snyder’s bag of tricks is all but empty and barring essentially an act of God, the Jazz will likely be eliminated by week’s end. Nevertheless, this series has provided invaluable experience and been eye-opening in terms of Utah’s needs moving forward and I expect them to come back even stronger next year.

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The Jazz will look to avoid the sweep when they take the floor Monday night at 7:00 pm.