Another night, another double-digit victory. This time it was Golden State 116, Utah 105. Poor Jazz. They really tried hard in this game, and probably played some of their best basketball of the season in the first half (I have to be honest, I haven’t watched a lot of Utah Jazz basketball this season). But the Warriors turned up the defense at the end of the second quarter, then they came out in the second half and ended things with a 44-27 third quarter.
Stephen Curry is the most important player on the best basketball squad the Bay Area has seen in nearly 30 years, and he obliterated the Jazz in the third quarter. He hit threes. He dribbled like he was auditioning for an And-One mixtape. He threw assists from every conceivable angle.
Sorry, I’m gushing. But that’s what this team does. The Jazz aren’t a great team by any standard. They’ve lost twice as many games as they’ve won, and the Warriors are playing .857 ball. But Curry always seems to put on a show on the road, and the kinds of shows the Warriors are putting on these days are verging on artistic.
It’s not just Curry, but he’s the one who pushed the tempo, scored 15 points and dished four assists in a third quarter that turned a tied-up game into a 17-point Warriors lead. Defenses have to make compromises that other teams would ignore when Curry goes between-the-legs, behind-the-back, forward and backward, left and right, but the Warriors take advantage of so many defensive mistakes caused by Curry’s improvisational skills. That’s what was missing last year. Why Curry thinks it was a mistake to cut ties with Mark Jackson probably doesn’t have much to do with basketball, because Curry is carving out his own place among the all-time greats with the way his talents are leading this great team during an amazing season that seems to get better by the day.
Really, what’s more fun that watching these Warriors on a nightly basis? That third quarter contained 10 Warriors assists and at least as many leaping shoulder/chest bumps, and it was capped by Mo Speights’ first three of the season at the buzzer. Poor Utah, they thought this was going to be a semi-close game. Then the Warriors stomped on the gas pedal and the Jazz ended up choking on exhaust like all the rest.
— The Warriors are 30-5 and 22 of their wins have been by at least 10 points.
— Checking out the assist and turnover numbers will tell you the story most nights. Golden State had 32 assists and nine turnovers, while the Jazz had 14 assists and 15 turnovers.
— Pointing out Steve Kerr’s subtle decisions is probably the way to get his “Coach of the Year” campaign on the same kind of roll as Curry’s MVP candidacy. Forget Leandro Barbosa’s shooting numbers — the guy who got buried by Justin Holiday looked like he got shot out of a cannon on Tuesday night.
— Barbosa played because Shaun Livingston sat, and for good reason. Livingston has sort of gone through the motions for a couple weeks now, and as someone who isn’t going to start or put up numbers, he may be in a mood to coast until he’s needed in the playoffs. Kerr needed to remind Livingston that, if he isn’t playing well, he won’t see the court during the playoffs.
— “I talked to Shaun today. Really, it’s more about LB than it is about Shaun,” Kerr told reporters after the game.
“LB has been a consummate pro over the last month. I’ve barely played him. When I have played him, he’s been fantastic. Every day, he’s one of our leaders. He keeps the guys after practice to shoot threes. He’s the first guy off the bench to greet people out of timeouts. To me, it’s very important to reward players for their work ethic, their attitude, their approach. It’s time to give LB a chance.
“So I talked to Shaun, it’s probably a good time for Shaun to sit back and maybe take a look at what’s happening out there. He’s been slumping a little bit lately. It seemed like a good time to do that. The good thing is that Shaun will be back soon. And LB, I thought, played really well tonight. He had a couple tough breaks at the end, I don’t know how those balls stayed out, but I thought LB was really good.
— Not one Warrior played 30 minutes in this game.
— David Lee isn’t sulking due to his new, lesser role. Far from it. He’s known as a “stats guy,” someone who’ll pile up the points and rebounds while ignoring the other side of the floor. But his penchant for putting up numbers has been paired with an above average ability to read the room. He knows that defense is this team’s calling card, and he’s averaging a block per game and 0.8 steals per game in the 10 games he’s played since returning from his hamstring injury (while only playing 19.7 mpg). Before this season, Lee’s highest blocks per game average was 0.5 per game in 2009-10.
— Iguodala had a nice transition crossover and dunk, and his steal and pass to Curry in transition led to the future MVP’s wildest shot I can remember in quite some time (when he spun to his right and flung a 10-footer off the glass with the english you’d expect from a pool shark), but all Iguodala seems to care about is getting Holiday some dunks.
— The rest of the team seems intent on getting the ball to Harrison Barnes in great situations. This team is rapidly becoming known as the squad that moves the ball better than any other (what a difference a year makes), and sometimes it seems like Barnes is the recipient of more great passes than anyone else.
— Andrew Bogut looks pretty healthy, something I didn’t expect to see until March. With Kerr taking so much of his coaching style from Gregg Popovich (he’s WAY more like Pop than Phil, in my opinion — just check out how he uses timeouts), I’d expect to see some scheduled days off for Bogut in February and March.
— Klay Thompson was named Western Conference Player of the Week, and he acted like the perfect role player with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. The same ego-free ball we’ve seen with the San Francisco Giants over the past five years is prevalent on this club.