The last time the Warriors and Jazz met, in Utah on Dec. 7, Golden State coughed up a four point lead in the final 13 seconds for a back-breaking loss.
In an eerily similar situation, except in the friendlier Chase Center, the Jazz missed three of four late free throws to allow Golden State to escape with a win. Key plays from Donte DiVincenzo, Draymond Green and Jordan Poole secured the victory as the Warriors rallied from a double-digit deficit.
There was no miracle for the Jazz this time.
Without Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors (18-18) needed a breakout performance from Patrick Baldwin Jr. and impressive shot-making from Ty Jerome and DiVincenzo to overcome Lauri Markkanen’s 29 points.
The 112-107 victory is Golden State’s third consecutive and brings its Chase Center record to an NBA-best 15-2.
Here are three takeaways from the Warriors’ win.
A jolt off the bench
In nine games played this year, rookie Patrick Baldwin Jr. had logged 67 NBA minutes before Wednesday. He’d shot a promising 41.7% from 3 but the opportunities for the 6-foot-9 forward just haven’t been there.
The past two Warriors games were DNP-Coach’s Decision for Baldwin, but on the second night of Golden State’s back-to-back Kerr called his number. There was no Stephen Curry, no Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson or JaMychal Green.
In the first half, Baldwin sank two 3s that keyed a 10-0 run. He clearly stayed ready while stuck to the bench.
It seemed like Baldwin was in the right spots defensively and he certainly made quick decisions on offense. The son of a college coach, it’s possible Baldwin is the cerebral type of player who could pick up Golden State’s system quickly.
Late in the third quarter, subbed in for his offense, Baldwin leaked out for a fast break dunk that the Warriors veterans loved from the bench. The jam gave Baldwin eight points in eight minutes.
Baldwin, the 28th overall pick from this draft class, sank another triple in the fourth to give him 11 points in nine minutes.
In the five-point win, Baldwin finished plus-13 in the box score. Ty Jerome (+7) had the second best plus-minus for GSW. The rookie changed the game.
Will Hardy has his team playing hard
It wasn’t the best five-man unit the Warriors put out, but on one possession, the Warriors gave the Jazz everything they had. A pick and roll, a slipped screen, split action, another side pick and roll, a fake dribble handoff. The Jazz countered every one, mixing and matching tactics based on personnel.
Even though the Warriors’ lineup at the time was Patrick Baldwin Jr., Donte DiVincenzo, Ty Jerome, Kevon Looney and Anthony Lamb, that’s still a ton of actions for Utah to sort through. That amount of movement can be difficult for any defense to contain. But the Jazz hedged picks, played the passing lanes and shut off drivers to force a tough midrange floater — the type of shot defenses try to bait.
The Jazz don’t have the most heralded, imposing defenders. Kelly Olynyk and Lauri Markkanen have each struggled on that end of the court in their careers. As has Jordan Clarkson, who was out there taking charges and playing the passing lanes. Mike Conley Jr. isn’t the athlete he was in his prime.
They held the Warriors to 112 points, below their 116.5 season average. And like they did earlier this month against GSW, the Jazz competed until the very end.
But defense often comes down to effort and attention to detail. Nobody expected Utah to be this competitive, but first-year head coach Will Hardy has given them the right game plans to execute and has done whatever it takes to motivate his group.
Kuminga isn’t going to be awesome every night (really.)
A night after saving the game against the Hornets by going 6-for-6 and making several clutch plays in closing time, Jonathan Kuminga (9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) was much less effective.
The second-year forward still had moments — like when he ran the court for a transition dunk or found James Wiseman with a nice wraparound pass — but he picked up three first-half fouls. He’s a smart player, but there are still lessons to learn.
Before the game, head coach Steve Kerr praised Kuminga’s upward trajectory that’s occurred the past two months, saying he’s “really embraced the idea of being a defensive stopper.” Kuminga has spent time working with Andre Iguodala, Kerr said, and the game has slowed down for him.
“That doesn’t mean there’s not going to be some tough games, some tough nights — like there were in New York,” Kerr said Wednesday. “A couple games after he’d strung together a bunch of good ones, he had a couple of tough nights on the trip. But again, the trend is upward overall, and that’s what’s exciting. JK is putting that wisdom that he’s gaining to use now. He’s sort of able to match what he’s learning into the game itself. That’s exciting to see.”
Curiously, Kuminga didn’t start despite his terrific performance Tuesday and the lack of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins. Anthony Lamb got the nod ahead of him, and Moses Moody got called off the bench before him as well.
Kuminga’s “ticket to playing time,” Kerr said, is using his athletic gifts to make an impact defensively. That’s both a testament to what this Warriors team needs and what Kuminga is capable of providing at the moment.
He sat after picking up his third until halfway through the third quarter. Then, he picked Clarkson’s pocket and leaked out to start a break. But he fouled Clarkson by reaching in 35 feet from the basket when Golden State was in the bonus, giving Clarkson guard free throws and earning him more time on the bench.
Kuminga got whistled for his fifth foul with over four minutes to go. Golden State still stuck with him for the closing lineup, until he fouled out two minutes later going for a rebound.
Kuminga knows playing lockdown defense is how he’ll get his name called. Now he knows foul trouble can strip away his opportunity.