OAKLAND – When the Warriors take the court at Oracle Arena on Saturday night, they will be confronting, for the fourth time this month, the dreaded back-to-back sequence of games.
They're 4-2 through the first three back-to-backs and believe they're in fine position to sweep this one. After thumping New Orleans on Friday night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors (55-13) will stay at home and greet the Utah Jazz.
Only the Warriors have been hotter than the Jazz (31-37) lately. Utah has taken off since trading center Enes Kanter at the trade deadline and installing 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert into the starting lineup. With the "Stifle Tower" as the anchor, Utah has been the stingiest team in the league since the All-Star break and has won 12 of 15 games.
With Gobert leading the way, Jazz coach Quin Snyder has wisely committed to youth, starting youngsters Rodney Hood and Dante Exum together in the backcourt.
Warriors by 8.5
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Andrew Bogut vs. Rudy Gobert: Bogut likely will resort to two tactics on the talented young big man. He'll use muscle inside but try to pull him out of the paint when the Warriors are on offense. A slender Frenchman nicknamed the "Stifle Tower," Gobert is averaging 9.8 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks since the All-Star break.
Harrison Barnes vs. Gordon Hayward: Barnes, who has made a massive impact on offense the past two games, will need to spend more energy at the other end to best Hayward. Utah's leading scorer has a fairly complete offensive game, capable of driving, pulling up from midrange or launching from beyond the arc.
Draymond Green vs. Derrick Favors: Another physical mismatch for Green to confront. He loves it. Favors is four inches taller and 35 pounds heavier and playing well. Green will make himself a defensive annoyance and definitely will try to lure Favors out to the perimeter by firing 3-pointers. If they drop, Favors is neutralized.
KEYS TO VICTORY:
1-Torch the guards. Utah's backcourt can be had. Justin Holiday needs to drop in some treys to spread the floor and offset the pressure applied to Stephen Curry.
2-Run, run, run. The Warriors, the best transition team in the NBA, must do all they can to set the pace against a squad that is one of the least effective running teams.
3-Defend, defend, defend. The Jazz go through stretches when they simply can't hit shots. The guards, in particular, have mostly struggled to consistently generate offense.
Warriors 9-1, Jazz 8-2.
Warriors: G Klay Thompson (sprained right ankle) is listed as out.
Jazz: G Alec Burks (left shoulder rehabilitation) is listed as out.
The Warriors have won two of three meetings this season after sweeping all four games last season. They are seeking their third season-series win over Utah in the last 20 years.