The Golden State Warriors will resume their pursuit of an NBA Championship on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, when they host the Utah Jazz for game 1 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. The Warriors are overwhelming favorites to beat the Jazz and advance to the next round. Most people’s only question is “How many games will it take them?” However, the Jazz just got done proving that they shouldn’t be overlooked or taken lightly. Utah is sharp after just wrapping up a 7 game series with the Clippers. While the Warriors might be getting getting a little rusty after sitting at home for a week getting some much needed rest. If Utah can somehow stun Golden State in game 1, the same way they stunned the Clippers, then maybe this series will actually be competitive.
The Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz played 3 times this season, with the Warriors coming out victorious in 2 out of 3 games. Utah won their final match up on April 10th, 105-99, and only one of their other two games was a blowout by Golden State. This is a different Jazz team than the one they played in the regular season though, their confidence has to have undoubtedly gone up after surviving a grueling 7 game series. If you consider the fact that Kevin Durant hasn’t played 5 straight games since February, and couple that with the fact that Head Coach Steve Kerr is absent from the sidelines with an ailing back, it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock if Utah is able to put up a fight against Golden State. After all, Utah is a hardnosed “grind it out” kind of team, and they’re very committed on the defensive end. Offensively, Gordon Hayward seems to be coming into his own during the playoffs, averaging 23.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Joe Johnson is making clutch shots, and they’re getting big contributions from their role players. George Hill, Rodney Hood, and Derrick Favors will need to continue to step up if Utah is going to have any hope in this series.
Realistically, if Golden State does comes out with any rust, it’ll probably be gone by the 2nd quarter. If that is the case, Utha is going to have to hold on for dear life. The Warriors already proved against the Trail Blazers that they don’t even need their full assortment of stars to sweep a playoff series. Granted, the Jazz have a bit more of a complete team than Portland did, but if all their stars are clicking it’s difficult to see any team. Let alone a young team advancing to the 2nd round for the first time since 2011, like Utah is. My prediction is the same is everyone else’s, KD comes back healthy, “Chef” Curry starts cooking, andGolden State wins the series in 5. The series could go 6 games if somehow Utah manages to steal game 1, but other than that, Golden State should find themsleves waiting ont their next opponent again.
Game 1 is Tuesday night at 10:30 pm EST on TNT