Recipe for Utah Victory: Fish and BoozeCarlos Boozer scored 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Derek Fisher scored 21 points--including 14 in the fourth quarter--as the Utah Jazz beat the Golden State Warriors 115-101 to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series. Deron Williams avoided foul trouble and played a solid game: 20 points, 13 assists, six rebounds, though he did have seven turnovers and shoot just 6-18 from the field. The Warriors may be running on fumes now, worn out by their high octane style and short rotation of players. Baron Davis, Golden State's heart and soul, had just 15 points, seven assists, one rebound and four steals, shooting 6-16 from the floor and 2-8 from three point range. An interesting subplot developed late in the game when Davis clocked Fisher in the head with an elbow. Fisher crumpled to the court but was eventually able to resume play and did not seem to suffer any ill effects. No foul was called but earlier in the year the NBA suspended Kobe Bryant for delivering blows to the head that looked a lot less deliberate than what Davis did to Fisher. Another chippy play happened when Jason Richardson took down Mehmet Okur when Okur drove to the hoop late in the game; Richardson received a flagrant foul and it will be interesting to see if the NBA follows up with a fine and/or suspension. Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington led the Warriors with 24 points each. As Golden State Coach Don Nelson said frankly after the game, none of his players had an exceptional performance; Harrington started at power forward but only had three rebounds, while Jackson only shot 5-15 from the field.
The Warriors got off to a good start, leading 12-7 within the first four minutes, but never showed the same bounce--or three point shooting accuracy--that they had in Game Three. The teams traded runs for most of the first half, with Utah leading 50-49 at halftime. The Warriors led 78-75 after three quarters but the Jazz blew them out 40-23 in the fourth quarter. The conventional wisdom is that the way to beat Golden State is to slow the game down but I have consistently disagreed with that during the playoffs; the Warriors are going to run whenever they get the ball, so their opponent will have to score points to beat them. If you slow the game down when you are on offense, you let the Warriors set up their gimmicky defenses and use their athleticism to get in the passing lanes. Golden State's transition defense is not great and their shot selection is worse than that of most teams in the league, so there is no reason to be afraid to run with them--just run to get layups or uncontested jumpers by your good outside shooters. Every game that the Warriors have lost in this year's playoffs their opponent has scored at least 112 points.
Since Friday, we saw a ton of replays of Baron Davis' sensational dunk over Andrei Kirilenko but, as I wrote after Game Three, "Everybody wants to look at the score or the highlights after a game like this but that is not how to figure out what is likely to happen the rest of the way in this series." Each of my predictions in that post came true in Game Four: the Jazz dominated points in the paint (50-32), Boozer's field goal attempts went up (from 10 to 19), Golden State cooled off from the three point line (15-32, .469, in Game Three; 12-39, .308, in Game Four), the Jazz reduced their turnovers (from 25 to 21) and Utah again controlled the glass (52-36 rebounding edge). Blowouts are dramatic and highlight reel dunks are fun to watch but they don't necessarily tell you anything about what will happen in the next game. The Warriors have a lot of heart and will not likely go down easy in Game Five but if the Jazz continue to control the boards and limit their turnovers then they will probably close out the series at home.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:10 AM