Warriors win a close game against the top-seeded Jazz, clinch play-in spot
By Huey Bergstrom
(SAN FRANCISCO) The Warriors won a close game against the top-seeded Jazz Monday night, securing a play-in spot and seemingly hitting a critical stride late in the season.
Monday's game was equally as exciting as it was messy, but the only thing that matters at this stage in the season is the final score. The Warriors won by three, 119-116, after a messy fourth quarter in which the Dubs gave up an 18 point lead and let the Jazz play their way back into the game.
Despite being outrebounded 48-41, the Warriors were able to disrupt Utah's best player and big man Rudy Gobert who had a stellar night on defense and gathered 16 boards but under-produced on offense. Gobert was missing two-star guards and constantly pestered by Golden State's barrage of undersized defenders. He only had 10 points on six shots.
Kevon Looney's 13 rebounds are notable for a variety of reasons. One he's undersized and playing against the boards king Gobert but beyond just that, Monday night was Looney's third game in a row with double-digit rebounds. That will be key moving into the playoffs. The Warriors don't have a true center with Wiseman out so it means rebounding by committee is the default. Looney's rebounding numbers recently bode well for the playoff future for the Warriors.
Steph Curry offered his usual dazzling performance, finishing with 36 points. Jordan Poole chipped in with 20 points to help close the game. It really shouldn't have been as close as the final score indicated and that is the biggest weakness moving into playoff time. The Warriors have to be able to close out games better than they did Monday night. They played incredible basketball for three and a half quarters but made critical mistakes in the fourth that ended up costing them a big lead.
Jordan Clarkson also went off for 41 points, with 11 coming in the critical late stages of the game, and led the Jazz on a 29-9 run near the end of the fourth. I think all Warriors fans were sweating watching Clarkson and the Jazz heat up.
While regular season games like this are good testers for the postseason, it does reveal that the Warriors can't let up the gas even with a big lead. A win is a win and especially against the NBA's best record Jazz, that's a great sign. But, if the Dubs want to win against Utah and the rest of the NBA's premier teams in the playoffs, Monday's effort isn't going to cut it.