Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green (23) is fouled by Utah Jazz’s Joe Johnson (6) during the first quarter of Game 1 of their NBA second-round playoff series at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
OAKLAND — Draymond Green and Steph Curry miscommunicated on a second quarter inbound that wasn’t even being defended, leading to an overthrow and the type of careless turnover that, if capitalized, can breathe life into the underdog, gritty Jazz.
But Utah didn’t capitalize. Draymond Green destroyed a should-be 2-on-1 score, stripping a Gordon Hayward layup, then pushing it ahead for an eventual Kevin Durant dunk, as a quartet of fans in section 101 rose with signs to spell out D(evensive) P(layer) O(f the) Y(ear).
There were stars all over the court on Tuesday night, but no one really starred in the Warriors’ workman-like XXXX Game 1 win over the Jazz. But that’s the kind of game — and this is the kind of matchup — that so perfectly fits Green.
Golden State rested the previous seven days, awaiting their second round opponent after sweeping through the Blazers. There was concern about some early rust.
And maybe there was a bit for the offense. The Warriors didn’t score on the first few possessions and airballed twice in the first quarter. But Utah didn’t score for the first 3.5 minutes, thanks in large part to Green.
That included a Jazz shot clock violation before a Jazz point. After bleeding the clock under five seconds, lanky center Rudy Gobert found himself about six feet from the hoop, needing to make a play against Zaza Pachulia. But as he gathered for a hook, Green double-teamed and pounced, forcing a stunned Gobert to fumble it away.
There was a lot of that early for the Jazz. The change of defensive speed from the Clippers to the Warriors seemed to throttle them. They missed their first five shots and turned it over three times, as Golden State crawled to a 7-0 lead.
The Jazz steadied a bit, adjusted to the speed and remained competitive for patches of the night. When Green left midway through the first quarter, they cut it to 27-21 to start the second.
But that’s when the Warriors planted maybe their most dominant spurt of the night. Green opened the second quarter by bolting back from a defensive assignment on the perimeter for a block of a Derrick Favors layup, already Green’s 18th block in five playoff games. It led to a quick David West layup on the other end.
After a Green assist to West a couple possessions later, Green called his own number, nailing the a wing 3. Portland continually left him open on the perimeter in Round 1. He punished them, making 11 of 20 3s. The Jazz employed a similar strategy in Game 1. Green punished Utah, making two of his five 3s.
The possession after his first, Green rumbled through for a dunk, sprinting the Warriors up 14 early in the second quarter. He was the engine of their sturdy defensive start and the spark for their offensive separation.
From there, the Warriors mostly cruised, as their lead fluctuated from just under 10 to around 20. No one starred. Steph Curry had 22 points on 11 shots — his night highlighted by a ridiculous crossover of Jazz behemoth Rudy Gobert, spinning him in a circle before hitting a reverse layup. Kevin Durant had 17. Klay Thompson had 15. Pachulia had 10.
The Warriors were balanced and smart with the ball. For Utah to steal a game in this series, they’re likely going to have to pick at both of the Warriors’ softest spots: careless ballhandling and defensive rebounding.
Utah did one decently in Game 1 and the other terribly. The Jazz missed 42 shots and snatched back eight of those rebounds, leading to 14 second-chance points. But Utah turned it over 14 times (leading to 20 Warrior points), while only forcing seven Warriors turnovers (only leading to four points).