Steph with a HUGE 3 for the lead pic.twitter.com/PjupILj3iA
— KNBR (@KNBR) May 11, 2021
Monday night’s win over the Utah Jazz (50-19) was a big one, and not just because it was a statement against the NBA’s best team — albeit one missing Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. Golden State’s 119-116 victory gave them a half-game lead over the Grizzlies for the Western Conference’s eighth seed with just three games remaining. It was an incredible effort in a game of incredible importance.
Warriors clinch play-in spot, hold onto 8th seed
The Warriors (36-33) also officially clinched a spot in the play-in tournament on Monday, which might sound like the bigger news. They are now ensured at least one basketball game after May 16th, though the odds of the Pelicans or Kings catching up to Golden State before tonight’s game was remote.
The Warriors keeping themselves a game up on the Grizzlies for the eighth seed is arguably more important. The seventh and eighth seeds must win just one game out of two to move on to the traditional NBA playoff structure, while the ninth and tenth seeds have to win two in a row to advance. As it stands now, the Warriors would play the Lakers in the first play-in game. If they were to lose, they’d play the winner of Grizzlies vs. Spurs.
What makes this even more interesting is that the Warriors play the final game of the season vs. Memphis at Chase Center on Sunday, a game which may determine the eighth and ninth seed. It also gives added importance to the next two games vs. the Suns and Pelicans, the latter of which Golden State should win. Doing so would likely end the Pelicans’ fading play-in hopes as well.
The Grizzlies next game is vs. the playoff-bound Mavericks, followed by two games vs. the Kings, who would have to beat Memphis in both to keep their play-in hopes alive.
There remain a lot of moving parts, but tonight’s win was huge in increasing the Warriors’ odds of getting out of the play-in tournament.
Curry’s 3 saves Warriors from collapse
The Warriors have punted a number of games this season, and narrowly avoided one that would’ve stung the most. Despite leading by 18 at one point in the fourth quarter, Golden State allowed a 21-6 run late that gave Utah a 116-114 lead on a Jordan Clarkson step-back jumper. Clarkson was a menace all game and especially late, dropping 20 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter and four of his five 3-pointers.
But the Warriors have Stephen Curry, and despite a rough game shooting from long-range, Golden State’s MVP stepped up to hit the game-winner with 13.4 seconds.
The shot gave the Warriors a one-point lead, and the defensive effort by Kevon Looney at the rim to stop Clarkson from a game-winner of his own at the other end proved to be the ultimate difference.
Huge stop on defense for the Dubs pic.twitter.com/wKuc3to9w4
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 11, 2021
Jazz defense stifles Curry, Warriors defense stifles Jazz
Perhaps no team has defended Stephen Curry better than the Jazz did on Monday night. Though Utah entered as the third ranked defense in the league, they have historically had trouble dealing with Curry in the high pick-and-roll, the slow-footed Rudy Gobert a frequent victim when switched onto Curry.
The Jazz made a tweak on Monday, however, with Gobert not dropping as far into the paint when being switched onto Curry, and Steph’s defender, most effectively Royce O’Neale, doing an good job at fighting over screens and staying with Curry. Curry still got his, dropping 36 points, but it was difficult for him, reflected in the 11-for-25 from the floor and 3-for-13 from 3-point range.
And yet, the Warriors’ team defense was so good it didn’t matter. Though the Jazz defense is impressive, the Utah offense is tied for second most efficient in the league. Golden State held them to just 45.1 percent shooting and 29.5 from 3-point range. For context, the Jazz average 47 percent and 39.1 percent respectively, and shoot more threes than any other team.
In short, if you can stifle the Jazz from deep, you can beat them. That’s exactly what the Warriors did on Monday night.