The Golden State Warriors completed a sweep of the Utah Jazz Monday night to move on to the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors’ offense was brilliant, as usual, led by Stephen Curry (27.1 points per game) and Kevin Durant (23.3 PPG). However, it was the defensive excellence of forward Draymond Green that really stood out.
Draymond Green Shines as Golden State Warriors Sweep Utah Jazz
It was, by all accounts, an uneventful series. Some, including NBA Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, even described it as boring. During Monday night’s broadcast of Inside The NBA, the two TNT analysts expressed disappointment over the lack of competitiveness in both the Warriors’ and Cleveland Cavaliers‘ series (both teams are 8-0 in the postseason). Barkley went so far as to call the Warriors-Jazz series “a nightmare.”
After Game 4, Durant and Green (who is often cast as Barkley’s nemesis) were asked about the panelists’ comments and responded in an unsurprisingly dismissive and snarky fashion.
Have the Warriors' playoff games been boring?
Kevin Durant: "Zzzzzzzzzzzz"
Draymond Green: "Bla, bla, bla, bla." pic.twitter.com/2R3O2YPkVF
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 9, 2017
Notably, Green himself has commented on the lack of competitiveness in this year’s playoffs. Per Chris Haynes of ESPN.com, Green criticized the quality of Cleveland’s two postseason opponents, describing the Cavaliers’ series wins as one-sided. Green’s comments may have been an attempt to get an early mental advantage over the Cavaliers, as the two teams are likely to be competing for the NBA championship come June. However, with LeBron James in a self-imposed social media blackout, Green’s words are unlikely to have the intended effect.
Shorthanded and Outplayed
The Jazz never had a chance in this series. Putting aside the fact that Golden State is a ridiculously stacked team expected to breeze to the NBA championship, the Jazz faced a number of other obstacles.
Point guard George Hill missed the last three games of the series due to a reccurring toe injury. Hill’s unavailability had a significant impact on the Jazz’s already low-scoring offense. The ninth-year veteran averaged 16.9 points and 4.1 assists during the regular season for the Jazz, and 16.9 points and 3.7 assists during the first round of postseason play. Shelvin Mack started in Hill’s place in Games 2-4 against the Warriors and simply could not fill Hill’s shoes.
Without Hill, the Jazz struggled to score. Utah did have a few nice runs led by All-Star Gordon Hayward, but the games never felt competitive or particularly close. The Warriors won by an average of 15 points per game.
Green Dominates Defensively
Green was exceptional, proving himself worthy of inclusion among the more elite players in the NBA. In the regular season, Green averaged a respectable 10.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. In the postseason, he has been even more impressive, averaging 14.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.0 steals, and 2.6 blocks per game.
Green was particularly dominant on defense. The Defensive Player of the Year front-runner is notably good at reading opponents’ offense. He roams the court like a shark waiting to attack. Green was especially effective on rotation against the Jazz, successfully dulling the offensive impact of Hayward and Joe Johnson. He also defended exceptionally well at the rim and had no difficulty handling post-ups by Derrick Favors and Boris Diaw. Utah scored only 95 points per 100 possessions with Green on the floor, connecting on just 52 percent of its shots inside of five feet, per NBA.com.
Gobert, who is also in consideration for Defensive Player of the Year honors, was not nearly as effective on defense for the Jazz. He was pulled out from under the basket by Golden State’s pick-and-roll plays and the mid-range shooting threat of David West. More often than not, the outcome was not pretty.
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 3, 2017
Coach Kerr’s Health Issues
Warriors coach Steve Kerr missed the entire Jazz series. He remains out indefinitely after having a spinal cord leak procedure at Duke University on May 5. Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown, former head coach of the Cavaliers, has assumed Kerr’s duties. Brown took over for Kerr after Game 2 of the first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Kerr’s health issues started approximately two years ago, after Golden State won the 2014-15 NBA championship. Kerr suffered a ruptured disk in his back, requiring surgery. After the surgery, he began leaking cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which caused him to require additional surgery later in the year. Since that time, Kerr has continued to leak CSF and endured chronic neck pain, nausea, and severe headaches. Kerr’s surgeries and medical complications previously caused him to miss the first 43 games of the Warriors’ 2015–16 season.
Golden State will face the winner of the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets series in the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs currently lead the series 3-2.