The night began with hope, was boosted by a first-quarter tease and finished as a predictable letdown.
Well, it would have been a letdown to most fans if they were aware it was happening. San Francisco’s eyes were on “Monday Night Football.” One dynasty is ending in the Bay, and so many hope another is beginning with the 49ers. It’s hard to remember an NBA game that was less relevant to The City.
Stephen Curry said he “definitely” wants and expects to return this season, even if his target of early February is merely to be reevaluated, not to return. Shortly thereafter, the Warriors reminded once again that this isn’t the season to rush back.
Yet again, the Warriors hung in. But there comes a point when talent is supposed to turn hanging-in into pulling-ahead. That next level may not exist for a team so decimated by injury, as the Warriors fell, 122-108 to the Jazz at Chase Center in front of an announced sellout of 18,064, but even many of the fans who were there seemed to have an eye on the football game.
The Warriors (2-9) were not quick enough to stay with Donovan Mitchell (21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists), not talented enough to quiet Mike Conley Jr. and Rudy Gobert (47 points combined) and not marksman enough with deep balls to compensate for what they lacked (shooting 9-of-30 from 3). Against a Utah defense that entered as the best defensive team in the league, allowing 97 points per game, the Warriors were more off than they were overwhelmed. They never got within single-digits in the second half.
Frustrations boiled over in the fourth, when Draymond Green — in his return after tearing a ligament in his finger — got called for a questionable blocking foul and argued it into two technicals and an ejection. Green finished with four points on 2-for-7 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists.
The next Utah possession featured Jordan Poole appearing to avert a kicked ball and cleanly come up with a steal, but the kick was called and it was Steve Kerr’s turn to earn a technical. The team’s fight is there, even if the team’s ability is not.
Draymond Green with his 2nd technical and first career ejection at the new Chase Center. Maybe he’s looking to break his career high for a season (3).pic.twitter.com/4QeTRcKFoA
— Nathan 🗣💯 (@WariorfanKd35) November 12, 2019
Though, there was hope at the onset. The first quarter was all D’Angelo Russell. The second quarter was all Jazz. And though Golden State again showed grit, grit typically earns respect, not wins.
Russell’s inspiring start kept the Warriors afloat, entering the second down 34-30, buoyed by Russell’s 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3. He was, as Curry said before the game, “unreal.”
Until the reality of the Warriors’ situation smacked down in the second, when it was Mitchell’s time to take over. The star point guard finished the half with 19 on just 10 field-goal attempts, his five 3s on six attempts each a dagger to a Warriors squad struggling to keep pace.
Russell, meanwhile, scored just four in the quarter and finished with a somehow-quiet 31 points, his fourth straight game with 30-plus. Utah pulled ahead, Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. 3s cushioning its lead to 69-54 at the break.
The Warriors closed it to a 12-point deficit entering the fourth. But Joe Ingles’ session-opening 3 took the air out of any comeback attempt. Seven Jazz finished in double-figures, while Alec Burks (10 points) and Poole (11) were the only to join Russell above that benchmark.
The Warriors need some luck and some bounces to turn game efforts into game wins. And to turn these games into games that San Francisco actually cares about.