The Golden State Warriors continue their defense of their NBA title on Friday with their first road game of the season. The Dubs take their act to Utah where they will take on the Jazz at the Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-100 at home on opening night while the Jazz barely got past the young Sacramento Kings 123-117 in Sacramento. Roles are reversed here as Golden State plays visitors for the first time this season while Utah makes their home debut for the 2018-19 NBA season.
The Warriors quest for a three peat began on a positive note with a win over one of their expected challengers in the Western Conference in the Oklahoma City Thunder. But the Thunder played without 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook who is out with a knee injury. Despite Westbrook’s absence, the Thunder kept the game close and were never outscored by more than 8 points in any of the four quarters of the game.
Former two time MVP Stephen Curry led the charge of the champions with a near triple double performance of 32 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists. Chef Curry made 11-20 shots including 5-9 from the three point area. But Curry and 2nd year center Damian Jones (who shot 6-7 from the floor) were the only starters who shot over .500 from the field as the rest of the starting unit combined to shoot only 15-54 from the floor with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combining for 14-41 including just 1-13 from behind the arc.
But the Warriors outrebounded the Thunder 58-45 and held them to just 36.3% field goal shooting for the night. Draymond Green and Kevin Looney had 13 and 10 rebounds respectively while the Warriors’ defense forced Paul George to shoot just 9-23 from the field. The Warriors also had 28 assists compared to OKC’s 21.
After a spectacular rookie season where he emerged as the Utah Jazz’s new franchise player and where he finished as finalist in the Rookie of the Year balloting, guard Donovan Mitchell continued his rise with another dominant performance on opening night.
Spider Mitchell poured in 11 of his 24 points in the final quarter as the Utah Jazz put away a stubborn Sacramento Kings team in Sacramento last Tuesday. Mitchell made only 8-21 shots in the game but he made the ones that mattered and when the game was on the line. Joe Ingles provided Mitchell with the offensive support by scoring 22 points on 9-12 shooting including 4-6 from behind the arc.
It was a far different game from the Utah Jazz team that we know. Behind 2018 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, the Jazz led the NBA last season in points per game allowed but stopping Sacramento from scoring was the last thing they did on Tuesday night. Gobert would finish with 19 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocked shots but the Jazz were nowhere the defensive specialists that made them an elite team last season.
The Utah Jazz lead the all-time series between these teams at 107-74 but let’s filter the matchup beginning 2015, when these Golden State Warriors began dominating the NBA with their current core. If we do that, the Warriors have won 10 out of the last 15 meetings between these teams. However, the Jazz won the 2017-18 season series between these teams at 3-1 including going 2-0 at Salt Lake City.
In Utah’s three wins over Golden State last season, their average winning margin was 29.66 with no winning margin lower than 19 points. Yep, that’s not a typo and that appears to be impossible to do against a dominant team like the Warriors who have won the NBA title in three out of the last four seasons.
Golden State won SU against the OKC Thunder in their season opener last Thursday but could not cover the 13 point spread despite the fact that OKC played without Russell Westbrook. The reason behind that was because the Warriors shot just 26.9% from behind the three point arc and were out-gunned from that distance 10 three pointers to 7.
Klay Thompson went 1-8 from behind the arc while Kevin Durant shot 0-5 for the Dubs. But knowing those two, you can’t keep a good shooter down. What more for two? Last season, Thompson shot 50% from behind the arc against the Jazz, making three triples per game in three games played. At Utah’s Vivint Smart Home Arena, Klay made 46% of his three pointers and averaged 25 points per game.
As for KD, he’s worth watching because last season, he averaged only 17 points per game against the Jazz, his lowest among all the teams during the 2017-18 season. Likewise, Durant made only 18.2% of his three pointers against the Jazz. In two games at Utah, Durant missed all his three pointers and averaged just 15 points per game, his lowest in any NBA arena last season.
The Jazz dreaded defense was nowhere in sight against the Kings. Utah allowed Sacramento to score 30 or more points in three of four quarters. And although they ended up winning that game 123-117, they didn’t do so with defense but with Donovan Mitchell scoring 11 in the payoff period.
Against the Warriors, the Jazz cannot win a shootout, not even if the Dubs’ are struggling from deep. Golden State is so much better offensively from top to bottom. The champs should have a better shooting night on Friday. We’re picking the Golden State Warriors to beat the Utah Jazz on 10/19/18.
Golden State is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games and also 5-2 ATS in their last 7 road games. On the other hand, the Jazz are 2-6 ATS in their last 6 games and 0-4 ATS in their last 4 Friday games. In the last six meetings between these teams, the favorite is 5-1 ATS.
For all Utah’s defensive prowess, I have faith that the Warriors bounce back from their “subpar” effort against the Thunder and beat the Jazz on Friday. The Jazz gave up 117 points against the Kings on opening night. Maybe that defense is still not 100% at this early stage of the season. The 2.5 spread can be covered by a single three point shot. Given the Dubs’ ability to shoot from deep, I think it’s minimal and unlike the 13 they faced versus the Thunder on opening night. Prediction: Warriors -2.5
The total has gone over in four out of the last five meetings between these two teams. But the under is 12-3 in the Warriors’ last 15 games overall and the under is also 5-1 in the last 6 games of Utah after a one day rest. The trends aren’t that conclusive but since both teams basically have the same team as last season, I’d like to revisit the previous year.
The Warriors led the league in scoring last season at 113.5 points per game. On the other hand, the Jazz led the NBA in defense (tied with Spurs) by holding their opponents to 99.8 points per game. Against the Jazz last season, Golden State averaged just 98.8 points per game. That said, we’ve seen Utah dictate their pace against the Warriors last season and this game should be no different at all. Prediction: Under 218
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